China's worst drought in more than 50 years has prices of rice and vegetables skyrocketing in recent weeks, but wheat production could be a record.

The average price of staple foods in 50 cities has increased significantly, and the prices of rice and vegetables may not drop soon, according to a report by the China Ministry of Agriculture.

The government shows that an area of nearly 7 million hectares of arable land, the “rice basket” area, has been affected by the drought with Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces near the Yangtze River being the most seriously affected.

Some rains reached the drought-affected region along the Yangtze River over the weekend, which may help limit damage to rice and other crops going forward but it is also too little too late for the current food shortage.

Countering the rice and vegetable shortage is some good news in that the government claims China’s wheat producers will likely reap a bumper wheat harvest in 2011, despite a short drought that also hit earlier this year in most of the wheat-growing areas in the north.

Agriculture Minister Han Changfu was cited as saying in a report posted on the ministry's web site that a survey shows expanded wheat acreage coupled with higher yields is contributing to the bumper harvest, while higher output in irrigated areas will offset lower output in drought-stricken zones. China's northwest provinces were hit by a strong drought last year which reduced the 2010 yield.