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Commodity Intelligence Report
April 16, 2013

China - Current weather conditions for winter crops and spring planting


April is a critical month in China for both winter crops (generally in the jointing to reproductive stage) and spring planting. The country is currently experiencing several different weather situations that may have a significant impact on crop yields for 2013/14. Conditions on the North China Plain are generally favorable. The crop situation was less favorable in the western part of the North China Plain. The Yangzte river basin received widespread moderate to heavy rainfall since January.  And drought continues to intensify this month in southwest China.

Winter crops - Precipitation has been close to normal since the beginning of the year and soil moisture is generally adequate for winter wheat and rapeseed development in the major growing regions, although drought conditions are affecting parts of southwest China and western sections of the North China Plain. Farmers have been told to take precautions against possible late-season cold weather, seasonal sandstorms, and irregular rainfall. Winter wheat and winter rapeseed are in generally good condition, according to local agricultural officials.

Spring crops – The planting of spring crops (early corn, early rice, potatoes, spring wheat and various cash crops) began as early as February in southern China and has expanded northward during March and early April. In the Northeast, unusually cool and wet weather is expected to delay spring planting, which is normally underway by the end of April. Persistent drought has lowered water levels in rivers and reservoirs in Yunnan and other provinces in Southwest China: some cropland could not be planted, and spring-sown crops in the highlands are under stress. Heavy rain in parts of southeast China may have had a minor impact on early rice sowing, but no flooding has occurred. Spring sowing in central China and the North China Plain should be progressing normally, given current moderate temperatures and fair to good soil moisture conditions.

The latest precipitation forecast by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (April 9-22, 2013) calls for normal rainfall on the North China Plain, drier weather in the Yangtze River Basin and additional rainfall in southern China, with the possibility of rain in the drought-stricken southwest.


Weather Conditions by Region

Conditions on the North China Plain are generally favorable. Warmer than normal temperatures and adequate soil moisture in March favored the green-up and development of winter crops and created suitable conditions for spring planting. Mean temperatures in early April have been close to normal, although there may still be occasional frosts in higher elevations. Local officials in Shandong and Hebei provinces report that winter wheat growth is above average and better than last year, while crops in Anhui, Jiangsu, and Hubei provinces appear to be growing very well based on satellite imagery and NDVI analysis. Winter wheat and rapeseed development was about a week to 10 days ahead of schedule as of the end of March, with the fastest growth in the Yangtze River region.


The crop situation was less favorable in the western part of the North China Plain (western Henan, Shanxi) and the Northwest (Shaanxi’s Guanzhong Plain, Gansu, and Ningxia) where a moderate to severe drought has developed over the past several months. Local reports state the drought has affected winter wheat in the jointing/boot stage and spring sowing progress in areas without access to irrigation. The extensive drought covers the entire upper and middle section of the Yellow River basin, which could limit the amount of water available for downstream irrigation later in the season.  Since the North China Plain is a moisture-deficit region, irrigation is essential to achieve good yields.

Note:  Red = 0 to 10 percent soil mositure

Blue = 80 to 100 percent soil moisture


The Yangzte river basin received widespread moderate to heavy rainfall since January.  Although the total amounts were close to normal, there were reports that winter crops (rapeseed, early corn, horticulture crops) and early rice seedlings were adversely affected in a few areas by excess rainfall and high soil moisture. Farther south, a long stretch of relatively dry weather ended abruptly with heavy rain at the end of March that continued into April.  The rain was a welcome change in the southern-most provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, which had been especially dry in early spring. Although the rain was well above normal, satellite imagery confirmed that little to no flooding has occurred in southern China so far this year.


Drought continues to intensify this month in southwest China, particularly in the southern part of the Sichuan Basin and northern Yunnan. The drought has been especially serious in Yunnan. Local officials reported in March that about 536,200 hectares of farmland have been affected by drought this year. In neighboring Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, the drought affected about 70,000 hectares and 140,000 hectares of cropland, respectively.

The long-running drought has impacted the growth and development of both winter and spring crops. Winter wheat and rapeseed yields are expected to decline in the region due to stress during the budding/flowering stage, and the spring planting of early rice, corn, and potatoes has been delayed by a serious lack of water for irrigation, particularly in mountainous areas.


In Northeast China, unusually cool and wet spring weather (including late-spring snowfall) may hinder the planting and emergence of spring crops such as corn, soybeans, peanuts, and rice. Planting normally begins in mid-April and peaks in early May, but the start of the season has been delayed by below-normal temperatures. Excessive moisture is also a problem, particularly in eastern areas of the region.


For more images and charts, please see April 2013.pdf

Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD's Agricultural Production page or at PSD Online. USDA provides its first estimate of the 2013/14 crops on May 10, 2013.

For more information contact Paulette Sandene | | (202) 690-0133
USDA-FAS, Office of Global Analysis

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