BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Rain and snow are likely to continue in drought-stricken Chinese provinces until the weekend, but they are unlikely to relieve parched croplands in major wheat-growing regions, the national meteorological authority said Thursday.
The National Meteorological Center (NMC) said since Wednesday snow fell in seven of eight wheat-growing regions, including Henan, Hebei, Shanxi and parts of Shandong, Shaanxi, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, while snow is forecast in southern Gansu no later than Friday.
The rain and snow is forecast to continue, but gradually diminish, until Sunday.
Although this week's rain and snow was good for wheat crops, it was not enough to relieve the drought, especially in severely-affected areas like Shandong Province, said experts with the NMC.
According to the NMC, the rainfall in drought-hit provinces is between 1 to 3 millimeters so far, but less than 10 millimeters will do little to relieve the drought.
The Ministry of Agriculture said as of Wednesday the drought had affected about 115.95 million mu (7.73 million hectares) of winter wheat in the eight regions where 80 percent of China's total winter wheat grows.
The drought in those provinces has lasted since October last year.
Henan, Shandong, Hebei and Anhui provinces produce 65 percent of the country's wheat.
Henan, the country's largest wheat producer, received 5.5 mm of snow, the first real bit of precipitation since October last year. But the province's drought relief officials said it wouldn't significantly ease the drought.
"The drought is very severe, so the snowfall won't help much," Shang Rongbin, a farmer in Chugang Village, Minquan County in Henan, told a Xinhua reporter, while busy irrigating his cropland.
Although the farmland has been coated with a thin layer of snow, Shang found the soil underneath was still dry.
"The current precipitation can merely dampen the soil. Early spring is crucial for wheat crop growth, and we are still bracing for a long-lasting and tough battle against the drought," said Yang Sisong, deputy head of Minquan County.
Guo Tiancai, a professor with Henan Agricultural University, said the winter drought in Henan may continue into spring if little snow or rain falls in February and March.
Shandong, parts of which are suffering the worst drought in 200 years, had received an average 0.4 mm of snowfall.
Light snow is forecast to continue to fall through till Saturday in Shandong, but it would only "slightly" alleviate the dry conditions, said the provincial meteorological observatory.
Shandong has seen 12 mm of precipitation since September last year, an 85 percent drop from the same period in previous years.
In Anhui and Hebei, meteorological authorities also predicted that the snow would do little to relieve the drought, while they have started to create artificial snow.
Chen Lei, deputy head of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFDH), urged local authorities of the affected regions to make more efforts to monitor drought conditions, speed up the building of water projects, increase drought-fighting technologies and grant subsidies to the drought-stricken population.
The SFDH would also strengthen guidance on drought fighting by sending another 12 professional teams to the affected regions, the statement said.