Pest damage worsens in rice-producing provinces

CHANGSHA, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Pests are posing an increasing challenge for the country's major rice-producing areas amid an important harvest year, according to agricultural officials.

The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) held a meeting on pest control with officials from the provinces of Hunan, Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangdong and Sichuan, as well as Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on Monday in Changsha, capital of Hunan.

Ye Zhenqin, chief of the ministry's crop farming department, said the provinces are suffering from "unbelievably severe" pest damage.

Rice planthoppers, known as a major pest for rice, had been detected in over 260 million mu (17.33 million hectares) of rice crops as of last week, up 50 percent from the same period last year, according to the national crop pest monitoring and reporting network.

Unusual weather and the arrival of several typhoons have resulted in greater precipitation, causing the pests to reproduce in greater number, Ye said.

Pest damage now poses a threat to the mid-season and late rice crops, making pest control a critical task for securing this year's harvest, he said.

Rice is a staple food in China. The country produces 200 million tonnes of rice annually, accounting for more than 28 percent of the world's total.

Pastoral Agricultural Integrated Services (PAIS), a company based in Hunan's city of Yueyang, has made significant efforts to reduce pest damage in the province.

"We have to keep working," said company chairman Zhong Ying.

More than 1,300 companies like PAIS had provided pest control services and other aid to more than 5.7 million farming households in the province as of the end of July.

This year's summer grain output, which includes wheat and early rice, reached 129.95 million tonnes, up 2.8 percent year on year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

Government data showed that China's grain output rose to a record high of 571.21 million tonnes in 2011, marking the eighth consecutive year of growth for the country's grain output.

Last week, the Ministry of Finance and the MOA allocated an additional 200 million yuan (31.75 million U.S. dollars) in subsidies to assist in pest control efforts. The funds, together with 400 million yuan issued previously, are designated to protect cornfields in northeastern and northern China from armyworms and southern rice-producing areas from rice planthoppers and rice blast disease.

"China is aiming for a ninth consecutive year of grain output growth. We won't give up on reaching the target just because of our pest problem," Ye said.

Editor: Chen Zhi