Recent quake sends shockwaves through China’s agricultural sector – UN
Last month’s earthquake in Sichuan, China, has caused some $6 billion in damage to the province’s agricultural sector, severely affecting over 30 million people in rural communities, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
The 7.9-magnitude earthquake of 12 May devastated the mountainous Sichuan province, killing an estimated 69,000 people and causing extensive property damage.
A recent FAO assessment mission to the area found that more than 30 million rural inhabitants have lost most of their assets. In addition, thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed, millions of farm animals died, houses and grain stores collapsed and thousands of pieces of agricultural machinery were damaged.
“In addition to the human tragedy caused by the disaster – mainly the loss of family members – many rural communities in Sichuan province have lost their means to produce food and create income,” said Rajendra Aryal, FAO Senior Regional Emergency Coordinator.
“People in the villages have demonstrated great resilience and have expressed their strong willingness to return back to their fields and resume farming and food production. It will probably take three to five years to rebuild the agricultural sector in Sichuan,” he added.
Most of the wheat crops could not be harvested after the earthquake due to the lack of labour as a result of deaths and injuries in farming families. Much of the wheat that was harvested before the earthquake – some 350,000 tonnes in Mianyang Prefecture, one of the areas hit by the quake – was damaged with the collapse of grain storages. Shortages of pesticides and fertilizers are jeopardizing future food production, FAO adds.
In addition, thousands of greenhouses have collapsed causing severe losses of vegetable crops. Major seed growing areas in the province, producing up to 20 per cent of China’s rice seeds, have been badly hit by the earthquake with more than 20,000 hectares affected. In some villages, up to 70 percent of rice fields have been damaged. The next harvest could face a shortfall between 10 and 50 per cent, due to delayed planting, pests and water shortages.
In addition, FAO noted that livestock losses are estimated at about $2 billion. Over three million pigs have been killed by the earthquake, with some villages having lost up to 70 per cent of their livestock.
“Urgent provision of fertilizers, pesticides, farm tools and machinery, livestock and reclaiming damaged fields will be the main challenge for the next six months,” Mr. Aryal said, adding that Chinese authorities have asked FAO to coordinate agricultural rehabilitation efforts in the province.