BEIJING, Aug. 12 (Xinhua) -- Extended scorching heat in China's central and eastern regions since July is imposing challenges on farming, while heavy rain in the north is further complicating grain production in the world's most populous nation.
The National Meteorological Center (NMC) continued to issue a heat alert at the second-highest emergency level on Monday, warning that temperatures in some areas in Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui provinces in the east will hit 42 degrees Celsius during the day, while, Hubei and Hunan provinces in central China will also see the mercury rise to between 40 and 42 degrees.
Monday marked the 19th straight day for which the NMC had issued an orange alert for heat. China has a three-tier alert system for high temperatures -- yellow, orange and red.
The NMC also forecast that temperatures of above 35 degrees will affect areas in southern and southwestern China on Monday.
Official data showed droughts caused by the heat have left millions of hectares of farmland affected, challenging the growing of crops.
Meteorological authorities forecast the current heatwave will linger till the middle of August. But the droughts may extend to month-end, because rain expected in the final 10 days of the month may prove insufficient to quench the thirst.
"We are growing more than 660 mu (44 hectares) of rice, but more than 400 mu will not yield anything," said Li Yaosheng, Party secretary of Xinglong Village in Huhan Province, a major rice production region.
A survey by grain business website cngrain.com showed similar cases were found in the neighboring provinces of Hubei and Jiangxi.
Local drought-relief authorities in Hunan warned that more than 20 million mu of farmland will be affected if the current drought continued.
In contrast to conditions in the south, China's northern regions have seen more rain than usual this summer. Rainstorms hit Beijing and Tianjin, as well as Hebei and Shandong provinces on Sunday, with precipitation in some spots exceeding 10 cm.
The NMC forecast that heavy rainstorms will strike some areas in the northeast, including Heilongjiang and Liaoning provinces, during the day and night on Monday.
"The weather conditions this year are not particularly beneficial to grain production," said Li Guoxiang, a rural development researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
However, Li said that the impact of the drought on grain output in south China may be limited because the northeastern regions, rather than the south, have become the top contributor to the nation's grain harvest in recent years.
"If the floods in the northeast continues, I am afraid it will have a worse impact [on grain output]," Li said.
Weather disasters have triggered concerns that the grain market will fall victim to speculation from both home and abroad.
However, Li predicted that grain prices will not see hikes broadly despite the likelihood of China failing to see another harvest this year, given that the current grain supply-demand is well balanced globally and China can also adjust itself via the international market.
Furthermore, Li added, grain stocks at home are also at a high level, which also weakens the possibility of capital speculation on grains.
Data show China's grain output reached nearly 590 million metric tons in 2012, marking the ninth straight year of increases.