China said today its 1977 grain harvest was no better than last year's.
This has been one of the worst years for natural disasters since the Communists took power in 1949, said the official New China Agency.
Foreign analysts said the admission in the official agency's summary of agricultural production indicated that China may soon have to retain to world markets to buy grain.
"They are going to have to tighten their belts or import more," one analyst said. No figures were given for grain production, but U.S. estimates are that about 285 million tons, including soybeans, were harvested in both 1976 and 1977. That is 2 per cent higher than 1975. But during the last two harvests, China's population of about 800 million people grew by an estimated 35 million.
Since November of 1976, China has been buying foreign wheat in record quantities - about 12 million tons, mostly from Canada and Australia. This wheat was for delivery up to mid-summer of 1978.
Analysts say 10 million tons could be needed to meet shortfalls this year and last, leaving little for reserves. They predict that purchases in 1978 could total 6 million tons.
The news agency put the blame for crop failures squarely on the weather, rather than on the non purged "Gang of Four" radicals who are often blamed for China's problems.
The spring drought was on a scale rarely seen in the past two decades, it said. It also listed exceptional cold, floods, wind and hail, typhoons, insects and plant diseases.
"This year was one of the worst in the 28 years since liberation, in terms of magnitude of natural disasters and total affected area," the agency said, adding that the effects were partly overcome by the efforts of the army and citizens.
"At the height of the battle, government offices, schools and enterprises in many towns closed their doors to join in the fight in the daytime and carried on their routine work in the evenings," the report said.