Chinese officials are preparing for "a severe, long-lasting drought" in the worst-hit eastern province of Shandong, with the national weather bureau forecasting little if any rain for the region through Feb. 17.

The U.N. food agency warned Tuesday that the drought was putting pressure on wheat prices in China. Average flour prices rose more than 8 percent in January from the previous two months.

On Wednesday, the director of emergency relief at Shandong's weather bureau said the agency had predicted the future trend of the drought, but he refused to give details. He said only that officials were preparing for "a severe, long-lasting drought."

As is common with many Chinese officials, he refused to give his name.