BEIJING (Reuters) - Drought parching parts of northern China will continue this month and water should be set aside for drinking and farming, China's weather administration said on Tuesday as it forecast little rain in coming days.
In several regions, including the northeast, the region of Inner Mongolia, Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding province of Hebei, only 6.2 mm (0.2441 inch) of rain fell this year to March 19, a 57-year low, an administration spokeswoman said.
Normally, there is 12.7 mm (0.5 inch) of precipitation by now, the Xinhua news agency quoted Jiao Meiyan, of the China Meteorological Administration, as saying.
"North China should set aside adequate water for farmland irrigation while ensuring drinking water supply in rural and urban areas," she urged.
Some 6 million hectares (14.8 million acres) of arable land in Heilongjiang province in the northeast, or 51 percent of the province's total planted area, could face severe drought during the spring ploughing season, Xinhua quoted local agricultural authorities as saying.
Heilongjiang is China's largest supplier of commodity grains, it said, including corn, soybean, rice and wheat.
Across China, by March 26, a 19.4 million hectares (48 million acres) of arable land had been hit by the drought, including 3.3 million hectares (8.15 million acres) of cropland, it said.
Most was in the northeast and northwest, according to the central Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
About 5.82 million people suffered from drinking water shortages, Xinhua added.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)