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China earthquake caused $6bn damage to Sichuan agriculture

By Laura Crowley , 30-Jun-2008

Last month's devastating earthquake in China has severely damaged the country's agricultural supply, resulting in $6bn (€3.8bn) worth of damage in the Sichuan province.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said thousands of hectares of farmland were destroyed, millions of farm animals died, grain stores collapsed and thousands of pieces of agricultural machinery were damaged in the quake, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale. While the FAO said it could not yet produce any information on how this could affect trade of agricultural produce and food production machinery, China's position as a leading global exporter could mean the shortages could feed into global supply. "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. EU trade with China China is the world's third largest exporter, and trade with the EU has increased dramatically in recent years. According to the European Commission, China is now the EU's largest source of imports making it Europe's second trading partner behind the US. The country exported €230.8bn worth of goods to the EU in 2007. While the majority of this was industrial goods, Europe also sources a substantial amount of agricultural goods and ingredients from China. According to forecasts made by the FAO in its annual Agricultural Outlook for 2008 to 2018, global agriculture and trade for most commodities are set to centre on emerging markets, like countries such as China and India, over the next 10 years. For example, rice production is expected to increase by around 10 per cent over the outlook period, mainly due to larger crops from Asian and South Asian countries. And oilseed consumption in developing countries will increase by some 50 per cent by 2017, compared to 2005-7 the baseline, with China and its livestock sector accounting for around half of this growth, the outlook said. Earthquake damage The earthquake was China's worst for 50 years. Major seed growing areas in the Sichuan province, which produce up to 20 per cent of China's rice seeds, were badly hit, damaging more than 20,000 hectares. The earthquake also caused rice fields to dry up because of disruptions to irrigation systems, and a "significant proportion" of wheat crops could not be harvested, according to the FAO assessment. Additionally, over 3m pigs were killed, and some villages lost up to 70 per cent of their livestock, causing damage of about $2bn. The FAO also said there are current shortages of pesticides and fertilisers are jeopardising future food production. "Urgent provision of fertilisers, pesticides, farm tools and machinery, livestock and reclaiming damaged fields will be the main challenge for the next six months," Aryal said.

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