Torrential rains battered several Chinese provinces over the weekend, resulting in deadly floods that have destroyed crops and displaced over 500,000 people.
The floods follow China’s worst drought in 50 years, which parched the northern countryside in March. It is part of a dramatic weather trend identified by the Beijing Climate Centre, which predicts rain in shorter, fiercer bursts, interspersed by protracted periods of drought.
Report & Analysis: China evacuates 500,000 as flooding breaks worst drought in 50 years[Guardian, 17 June 2011]
This round of floods, which began in early June, is expected to cause a rise in food prices despite projected record harvests.
As the world’s second largest producer of corn, year-long drought and flood conditions in China have skyrocketed food prices in both corn and rice. Rainstorms in the province of Zhejiang in the Yangtze delta have caused nearly 5 million yuan of damage, reducing vegetable production by 20 percent and pushing prices in the provincial capital up by as much as 40 percent.
Report & Analysis: China food prices spike as floods ruin farmland [Reuters, 19 June 2011]
Report & Analysis: China and world demand for corn to drive up prices on projected record harvests [Examiner, 19 June 2011]
In May, food prices pushed China’s inflation to its highest level in three years despite government efforts to cool the overheated economy. Although a rebound in food supplies this summer was expected to ease inflationary pressures, the recent destruction of crops means that prices will likely remain high.
Report & Analysis: China food costs push inflation to 5.5 pct in May [BusinessWeek, 13 June 2011]
The floods come a month after the Chinese government acknowledged that the Three Gorges Dam on China's Yangtze River was having urgent problems and warned of environmental, social and geological disasters.
Report: China admits Three Gorges Dam problems [AFP, 18 May 2011]
Meanwhile, China has been engaged in a US$62 billion engineering project to divert water toward the north and away from the flooded south. However, the scheme has provoked concerns about its environmental impact and its displacement of low-income villagers.
The diversion project is planned for completion in 2050.
Report & Analysis: Plan for China’s water crisis spurs concern [NYT, 1 June 2011]