Growers in northeastern China have the same harvest anxiety as farmers in Western Canada.
Growing conditions in that region are similar to what transpired in the Canadian Prairies this year.
Seeding was two to three weeks late in large parts of northeastern China because of a cool, wet spring. Warm summer temperatures helped crops catch up a bit but not enough.
“I don’t think the crop is as far advanced as it would normally be this time of the year,” said Paulette Sandene, China analyst for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
Harvest in northeastern China typically starts around the second week of September and concludes in the second week of October.
The region, which consists of the provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, produces 42 percent of China’s corn and 45 percent of its soybeans.
An early frost would devastate those crops, bolstering China’s increasing reliance on imported corn and soybeans, supporting prices for two crops that influence the prices of many Western Canadian crops
“If there’s an early frost, say Sept. 20 or 24 or around there, then that has a really negative impact on yields, especially for a crop that is a little behind schedule,” said Sandene.
The region had 40 to 50 percent higher than normal rainfall. From June 1 through Aug. 20 rainfall averaged 300 millimetres with some places seeing more than 700 mm.
That has led to extensive flooding of cropland along major waterways.
Sandene’s sources in China estimate as much as five million acres were flooded, representing seven percent of cropland in the region.
It is hard to gauge production losses because it is not known what crops are grown in the affected areas.
As well, there are mitigating factors.
“The heavy rains are actually beneficial to some parts of northeast China that normally don’t get enough rain,” said Sandene.
China’s agriculture ministry ex-pects a good crop despite the flooding as well as drought along the Yangtze River basin this summer.
“They expect yields to be very good for dry land crops this year,” Sandene said.
Bill Tierney, chief economist with the AgResource Company and former principal grains economist with the USDA, is suspicious of any official state pronouncements.
“I mean, they’ve had record crops for 10 years in a row. How is that possible? It’s possible because that’s what the government says,” he said.
However, he doesn’t doubt that the flood damage may be offset by better-than-average yields elsewhere.
“China is a huge country. Every year there is a 50-year drought some place and a 50-year flood some place.”