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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's national average temperature hit 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 Fahrenheit) this summer, the highest since 1961, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

A total of 55 weather stations posted record high daily temperatures, said Xinhua, citing Zhang Zuqiang, director of the emergency relief and public service department of China Meteorological Administration.

In contrast with normal years, the national average temperature from June to Aug was one degree higher and the hotter weather lasted longer and caused more extreme weather, Zhang added.

Some 93 weather stations reported extreme high temperatures mostly in Jilin, Liaoning, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, Hubei, and Shandong provinces.

Zhang said the high temperatures in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River were damaging to crops. The lower area around the Yangtze River is one of China's key regions for rice, its most important food grain.

(Reporting by Engen Tham and David Stanway in Shanghai; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Reuters