7 August 1997 


Continuous civil strife since 1979 has seriously disrupted the Afghan economy and damaged much of the countryís infrastructure. Large numbers of population have been displaced and massive unemployment has resulted in low incomes which limit access to adequate food for many, particularly those in urban areas. Agriculture has suffered from physical damage to irrigation structures, from mines and from the disruption of normal markets and input delivery mechanisms. Insecurity and the movement of rural populations have limited food production in some areas. The civil unrest has caused the country to move from near self-sufficiency in the mid 1970s to a dependency on imports, mostly from the former U.S.S.R. in the 1980s, and from Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1990s. In recent years, around 30 percent of food supplies have been imported, mostly for the countryís urban population.

In view of the inadequate access to food for large sections of the population and of the limited agricultural improvement, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission was fielded to Afghanistan from 8 June to 9 July 1997, to estimate the 1997 cereal harvest and cereal import requirements for the 1997/98 marketing year. The Mission was able to travel rather freely in most of the south and east of the country and it visited 14 of the 28 provinces, but was unable to travel to the north of the country for security reasons. The Mission also visited the Islamabad offices of FAO, WFP and UNDP with responsibilities for Afghanistan.

Extensive discussions were held with many farmers and traders in the country. The results of a 1 200-farmer survey conducted by WFP staff to ascertain details of the 1997 cereal crops were also reviewed. Concerning the north, information was obtained through discussions with FAO, WFP and NGO staff who had been working in Mazar. In addition, the Mission reviewed a large number of reports on Afghanistan, including the last official statistical summary of Afghan agriculture (published in 1978), as well as more recent satellite surveys of the country. The information and impressions gained from both UN staff and NGO workers operating in Afghanistan were invaluable to the Mission.

Due to lack of recent statistics on cropped areas, the Mission based its 1997 estimate on the official 1967/68 data, updated by 1992 satellite information, and modified downwards to take account of the direct effects of war, mines and the displacement of rural people. Crop yields for the four main cereals were estimated from field visits and from the survey of farmers undertaken by WFP. Cereal production for both 1996 and 1997 was then cross-checked against information on national consumption and imports. The estimated population of 19.5 million (1997/98) was drawn from the consensus view of UN organizations concerned with Afghanistan, after allowing for considerable repatriation of refugees from the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan over the past few years.

With the improvement in security in the southern part of the country since 1995, some recovery in food production has occurred and the rehabilitation process has begun. In the north, military activities continue and, although there is still some disruption to agriculture, there is also evidence of increased production of wheat.

The Mission has estimated the 1997 total cereal production at 3.66 million tons, comprising 2.71 million tons of wheat, 0.4 million tons of rice, 0.3 million tons of maize and 0.25 million tons of barley. Maize and barley are mostly used as feed for livestock. The 1996 cereal production was estimated at 3.10 million tons, including 2.32 million tons of wheat. The 1997 harvest, which is 18 percent higher than the previous yearís, is the largest crop since 1978, due to a good growing season in most areas (including the north), as a result of above average and well distributed rains, although some flooding was noticed in localized areas.

The 1997 cereal crops suffered relatively little pest damage and the harvest is being carried out in good weather conditions. Although there are no data on the quantities of improved seed and fertilizers used, input prices are attractive relative to the price of grain, and farmers are widely aware of the benefits.

However, there is some uncertainty about the likely amount of harvest in the eight northern provinces because of the civil strife which has isolated this area. Although large areas are reported to be planted, especially with rainfed wheat, and the growing conditions were favourable, the actual harvest could be delayed in some areas because of military activities and labour scarcity resulting from migration. These northern provinces together comprise 40 percent of Afghanistanís irrigated cereal area and 53 percent of its rainfed area. Normally, it is a surplus region, but the movement of grain towards the populated centre is currently impeded by the front-line north of Kabul. This may lead to increased carryover stocks in the north and exports into the CIS, as well as shortages in the Kabul area, which, with its estimated population of 1.2 million, is almost completely dependent on imports from Pakistan. The eight northern provinces are forecast to produce 1.3 million tons of cereals from the current harvest, but if the intensity of military activities increases or the conflict widens over the next few months, harvesting could be interrupted and a reduction from this forecast is possible.

Pre-harvest stock levels in 1997 in most of the country were severely depleted as the extremely high cereal prices caused by Pakistanís ban on its exports to the country in February drew out any remaining carryovers on to the market. However, with the onset of harvest in early June and the lifting of the restrictions, prices fell sharply to around 7 000 Afghanis per kg (U.S.$ 320/ton). With a good harvest in prospect and supplies flowing freely from Pakistan (though restricted from the Islamic Republic of Iran), prices are likely to remain steady for some months. The local currency in the Taliban-controlled areas has remained at a fairly stable level against the dollar and the rupee, and domestic grain prices, which are strongly affected by import prices, are unlikely to come under pressure from currency changes in the short-term.

Despite the good 1997 harvest, import requirements are expected to be considerable. Given the rise in population, due partly to returnees, cereal imports in the 1997/98 marketing year are forecast at 710 000 tons, similar to last year. This implies some small build-up of wheat stocks, mainly in the north, and some exports, roughly estimated at 150 000 tons, from the northern provinces to the CIS countries. Most of the import requirements are expected to be met by commercial supplies of wheat mainly flour from Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The imported supplies are mainly aimed at meeting urban demand.

The Mission has estimated the 1997/98 emergency food aid at 170 000 tons, including 150 000 tons of cereals, similar to 1996/97. The WFP is the largest supplier which is providing 140 000 tons of food aid in 1997, followed by ICRC with 25 000 tons and a number of NGOs. Emergency food aid is required to meet the needs of the estimated 1.75 million vulnerable people during the 1997/98 marketing year. 


Afghanistan is a mountainous country of 652 000 sq.km, strategically situated between the central Asian plains and mountains of the CIS countries to the north, Pakistan to the east, and the Islamic Republic of Iran to the west. The resident population is currently estimated at about 19.5 million and contains four ethnic groups, each with its own identity. Ethnic conflict has plunged the country into a fierce and destructive civil war since 1989.

The country's natural resources include natural gas with reserves estimated at 150 billion cubic metres, oil conservatively estimated at 100 million barrels and coal; only the latter is currently being exploited on any scale. Although the terrain is high, dry and rugged, there are highly productive valleys well suited to a range of crops under irrigation. Agriculture has always been a major sector of the economy contributing about 50 percent to GDP. Today, it is even more significant being the main source of output, employment and incomes since the demise of industry and gas exports as a result of the war. Although handicapped by war damage and locally by mines, agriculture is recovering quickly following the relative peace of the last two years in the south of the country.

However, the 18-year continuous civil conflict has taken a heavy toll on the Afghan people. At the peak of the unrest in the early 1990s, an estimated 30 percent of the population had fled the country or were internally displaced. Since 1992, about 3 million of the 6 million expatriate Afghans have returned. Much of the population suffers from the after-effects of civil unrest - the number of disabled, widowed, orphaned and unemployed are among the highest in the world. Afghanistan ranks almost last in the Human Development Index of UNDP, and it has some of the poorest figures in the world for infant and maternal mortality, life expectancy and access to health care and safe water. Coping mechanisms which have enabled the disadvantaged to survive and avoid a famine situation are becoming over-stretched in areas directly affected by the ongoing conflict.

The collapse of industry and the need to finance the war effort led to a serious fall in output and trade, very high inflation and a steep drop in the currency's value until recently, when the situation in the south of the country became more stable (22 000 Afghanis/U.S.$) and food prices levelled off. Exports of horticultural produce to Pakistan have recently increased and there are signs of a return to more normal commercial life, particularly in the east and especially in Herat. Kabul, where the infrastructure has been severely damaged, is still close to the front line, and the flow of food from the north is no longer possible. In the north, where the conflict continues, the economy is much more inflationary and the separate currency has declined to one-third of the value of the Afghani in the Taliban-held areas.

The international community has been extremely active in Afghanistan, not only in trying to broker a peace settlement, but also in relief, rehabilitation, de-mining and development (particularly in agriculture). At the World Food Summit in November 1996, a draft strategy for National Agricultural Development was presented and, since then, an International Forum on Assistance to Afghanistan was held in Ashgabat in January 1997, followed by a UN Consolidated Appeal for Assistance.

In terms of agriculture and food production, there are some signs of a return to normality in areas where there is security from conflict and banditry. In the Taliban-held areas, the freer movement of traffic has facilitated the operation of markets and commerce. Inputs are available and produce markets appear to be operating fairly efficiently. The 1997 growing season is one of the best in many years and livestock numbers are steadily recovering. Much remains to be done in the agricultural sector, but the evidence is that farmers are responding to the improved situation.


Afghanistan has not been self-sufficient in cereals since 1976, when production peaked at 4.5 million tons. From 1978, civil unrest contributed to a steady fall in production through the 1980s, reaching its lowest level in 1990 with only 60 percent of the 1976 production level. Since 1990, production has slowly climbed as aerial bombing of rural areas diminished and fighting intensified in urban centres, especially Kabul. Production appears to have responded to the greater security in rural areas, particularly in 1995 and 1996. In 1997, more roads were de-mined, rural security was further enhanced in Taliban-controlled areas and some agricultural inputs have been available in markets. Although civil unrest continues in the north, national production in 1997 has increased further due to a number of beneficial factors, particularly good rainfall and the improved security in the south and most parts of the east.

Rainfall During the 1997/98 Cropping Season

Precipitation records are rarely available, and Afghanistan is not covered by current remote sensing satellite outputs. However, the Mission had access to rainfall data for Ghazni, where most crops are irrigated and for Kuskh in Herat District, which is a major rainfed wheat producing area. During the 1997 growing season, Ghazni received 327 mm of rainfall during the period January-May compared to a 12-year average of 262 mm. Rainfall was 294 mm at Khuskh during the same period against a long-term annual average of 231 mm. Rainfall in the northern provinces was reported by FAO staff in Mazar at 170 mm for the season, compared to 160 mm in the previous year when good crops were produced. Distribution of rains in the north was particularly favourable to rainfed wheat.

Good rains during the growing season were also reported by nearly all farmers, benefiting both rainfed and even irrigated crops. There was little or no rain during the harvest period anywhere in the country and this greatly assisted the harvesting process for all crops. In 1996, considerable rain at harvest had been reported, hampering harvesting and damaging crop quality.

Area Planted

Recent information on the cropped area of both rainfed and irrigated crops is not available. The Mission used two basic sets of data, the Central Statistics Office publication of 1978 "Afghan Agriculture in Figures" and satellite data from a 1992 survey conducted by Development Alternatives Inc. and Earth Satellite Corporation published in 1993. The Mission amended the earlier agricultural statistics with the help of satellite data and by considering more recent factors affecting cropping.

The 1997 season was favourable to rainfed wheat with good and well distributed rains and there was an estimated 10 percent increase in area planted in the Northern region, the main rainfed area, which was relatively peaceful at planting time. Increased areas were also reported from northern Herat and Badghis. The use of tractors has increased in recent years, especially along the border with Pakistan, speeding up the cultivation of large areas of land required for rainfed wheat. There are also other factors which have had a positive impact on plantings. These include: (i) the increase in funds since 1992 for the rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure and the improvement of many schemes supported by WFP and NGOs and through various aid programmes, and (ii) the decline of irrigated cotton growing, from an estimated 120 000 hectares to the current level of about 20 000 hectares, which has released more land for cultivation of cereals, especially wheat.

Irrigated wheat plantings were also relatively high, although crops were poor on the margins of irrigated areas where water distribution has deteriorated as a result of damage to canals and karezes. The existence of mines remained a constraint on planting in some areas although de-mining has already released some of the better land. Overall, most farmers reported a small increase in the area planted to irrigated wheat.

Nevertheless, a number of more localized factors have also negatively affected plantings. These include: (i) the recent war in parts of the north which has caused the displacement of many farmers; (ii) lack of maintenance of the large Helmand River Scheme resulting in large areas being abandoned due to salinization, siltation of the canals and loss of considerable areas of formerly irrigated land due to the changing course of the river bed; (iii) flash floods In Herat, which damaged one of the three main irrigation canals serving this area; (iv) the increasing area under poppy cultivation which has reduced the irrigated wheat area; and (v) the increased cultivation of white cumin in Herat, Faryab and other provinces, which competes directly for land with rainfed wheat.

Despite the above negative factors, farmers generally increased plantings of cereals compared with last year, largely because of favourable weather, economic and food security incentives and relative peace at planting time. The Mission estimated that 2.15 million hectares of irrigated land were cropped in 1997, of which 1.80 million were planted to cereals. The rainfed cereal area in 1997 has been estimated at 900 000 hectares. In total, the cereal area is estimated at 2.7 million hectares, some 20 percent less than in the mid-1970s. The breakdown of individual cereals is: Irrigated wheat 1.22 million hectares, rainfed wheat 0.90 million hectares, irrigated rice 0.18 million hectares, maize 0.2 million hectares and barley 0.2 million hectares.

Agricultural Inputs

Seed: Most of the seed in use in Afghanistan is of local origin, low-yielding and susceptible to diseases such as stripe rust. National requirements for wheat seed are estimated at 260 000 tons per year. Since the late 1980s there has been a steady increase in the supply of improved seeds, which were first imported from Pakistan and India, but are now partly produced locally. In 1995 and 1996, an FAO Project produced 750 tons of foundation seeds, which were then multiplied, partly through a successful Food for Seed Scheme financed by WFP, EC and other donors. Total seed production under this programme in 1995 and 1996 was 16 000 tons, comprising 11 000 tons of wheat, 1 700 tons of rice, 2 200 tons of maize, 200 tons of barley, 900 tons of pulses and 400 tons of cotton. Farmers are well aware of the advantages of high yielding varieties, but many cannot obtain them due to their scarcity and to the remoteness of many villages. The war has also hampered distribution of seed to outlying areas through damage to roads and infrastructure. Some farmers still prefer to use traditional varieties because the improved varieties mature sooner and are liable to bird damage.

Fertilizer: According to the SCA Agricultural Survey of Afghanistan in 1990, fertilizer usage increased steadily from 9 000 tons of assorted types in 1967 to 192 000 tons in 1987/88, after which it was estimated to have declined. Accurate figures of fertilizer usage are not available at present. However, the farmer survey organized by the Mission showed that 78 per cent of farmers in Herat province used fertilizer, while in Ghor, Badghis and Farah provinces fertilizer use was 4 percent, 8 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

In 1987/88, the most common fertilizers in use were urea (140 000 tons) and Diammonium Phosphate (36 000 tons). Since then, consumption has not been recorded, but farmers have continued to use fertilizer in significant quantities. The Mission observed supplies of imported urea, Nitrophos and DAP in many stores across the country. Although fertilizer was generally available, lack of credit was reported to be a major constraint to its use.

As a result of insecurity in the northern provinces, supplies of DAP were reported to be non-existent in these important wheat growing areas, though urea supplies, from the local factory in Mazar, were available. Prices for fertilizer were remarkably even across the country at about 6 million Afghanis per ton (U.S.$ 270) for DAP, 5.4 million (U.S.$ 240) per ton for Nitrophos and 5.0 million (U.S.$ 222) per ton for urea. Instances of mislabelling and adulteration of fertilizer with inert materials were also widely reported. Organic/animal manure is commonly applied to the land, though an increasing proportion is being used for fuel to the detriment of soil fertility and soil organic matter.

Agro-chemicals such as fungicides, herbicides and insecticides are not widely available in Afghanistan. The use of sulphur in controlling Powdery Mildew of vine is well known. A few farmers used 2,4D herbicide in 1997, but none are using any modern herbicide against very common weeds, such as wild oats.

Tractors and oxen: According to the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, an estimated 5 000 tractors were in use in Afghanistan in 1993. No estimates of current numbers were available, but tractors are common in the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. Tractor hire rates were around 150 000 Afghanis per hour (about U.S.$ 7.00), which is very reasonable given the economics of tractor operation, and they presumably reflect active competition for contract work among tractor owners. Lack of fuel for tractors was reported in the northern provinces in June and July 1997, and this may have further hampered harvesting operations there. In the north-east of the country, along the border, most threshing is done by tractor-powered machines from Pakistan.

The civil strife caused the loss of large numbers of oxen, especially in the provinces of Ghazni and Zabul, where the numbers of oxen fell by 72 percent and 84 percent, respectively. Oxen are still very important in the northern areas of the country but less so in the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand and Farah in the south. It appears from the Missionís survey that cultivation power was not a constraint on areas planted in 1997 although, in some areas, low oxen numbers may have contributed to late planting .

Irrigation: Canal irrigation, fed by streams and rivers is by far the most important irrigation method. Traditional karezes, (underground channels), supply an estimated 7-10 percent of irrigation water, as confirmed by the results of the Missionís survey. Wells are important in Farah Province in the south-west Region.

Some irrigated areas are fallowed due to inadequate water supplies, particularly in Kabul province, and lack of water was frequently cited by farmers as being their main problem. During the conflict, maintenance has been neglected and some irrigation structures have been damaged. Destruction of natural forest has reduced the infiltration of rainfall, leading to flash flooding in many areas, which has damaged irrigation water intakes and other irrigation structures.

Cereal Yields and Production

The Mission has estimated the yield of irrigated wheat at 1.7 tons/hectare compared to the highest average yield recorded in the official statistics of 1.25 tons/hectare in 1976/77. However, fertilizer sales doubled to nearly 200 000 tons between 1976 and 1986. Fertilizer use was still high in 1997 which, coupled with the favourable rainfall pattern ensured the relatively high yields this year. The Missionís forecasts of national yields and production, by main cereal crop, are presented in Table 1. These yield estimates are based on the missionís field work and on information from FAO staff in Mazar for the northern provinces.

Pests and diseases were of much less significance than in the previous year, when stripe rust was a major cause of yield loss in wheat in Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman. Rust was reported to be worse in the northern provinces in 1997 than in the previous year, but crop yields are still expected to be high.

Sunn Pest outbreaks, caused by various species of shield bug are reported to have damaged the wheat crop in northern Herat Province, in Balkh and some other northern provinces. Some damage to the wheat crop by locusts was reported from Samangan and from Khulm District of Balkh Province, but infestation was much less than in the previous year, due mainly to a successful spraying of breeding sites and to mechanical control measures developed by FAO Project AFG/96/004. However, covered Smut was widespread, mainly due to lack of seed dressings. FAO has estimated that up to 30 percent of potential yields may be lost through Smut diseases, which are easily controlled by proper seed dressings.

Table 1 - Forecast of Cereal Production in 1997
Area Harvested 
(Ď000 hectares) 
(Ď000 tons)
Wheat  1 224  1.70  2 080
Rice  180  2.22  400
Barley  200  1.25  250
Maize  200  1.50  300
Wheat  900  0.70  630
Total  2 704  1.35  3 660

Although wheat accounts for 79 percent of all cereals, rice, maize and barley are also important both for human food consumption and animal feed.

Rice is an important crop in Nangarhar, Laghman, Herat, Kunduz, Baghlan, Balkh, Wardak and Kapisa, in particular, but it is also grown in other provinces. In the east it is grown immediately after wheat as a transplanted crop. In Herat, it is either transplanted or broadcast, the latter at very high seed rates in order to compete with weeds. Surveys in recent years indicate a lower usage of improved seed (7 percent) compared with wheat. The FAO Project has distributed 1 600 tons of improved rice seed in the past two years. Various types of rice are grown and in Herat province local rice is more valuable than imported Pakistani rice. The rice crop is generally well managed, being grown on the best irrigated plots, and yields this year are estimated by the Mission at 2.22 tons per hectare.

Maize is grown as a second crop after wheat in the east and south regions, especially in Nangarhar, Paktia and Paktika provinces, with smaller areas being grown in the rest of the country. It is usually grown at a very high seed rate, with the thinnings being used for livestock fodder. Most of the crop is used for animal feed, but it may be ground and made into maize bread as a cheaper substitute for wheat in the east and south regions. Maize is often sold to Kuchi nomads for animal feed and they prefer the smaller grained varieties which are lower yielding. Only 9 percent of farmers used improved varieties according to a survey in 1993. The FAO Project has produced and distributed over 2 000 tons of maize seed since 1995. Yields of maize are estimated at 1.5 tons per hectare with around 30 percent being used for human food. Barley is mainly an irrigated crop grown principally for animal feed, especially for equines. The average yield is estimated at 1.25 tons/hectare.

Other Crops

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Afghanistan has a substantial comparative advantage in the production of high quality fruits and vegetables. Grapes, almonds, apricots, pomegranates and apples all flourish in the dry climate, given sufficient irrigation water. Watermelons and melons are also widely produced. Much of the produce is exported to Pakistan and the Mission was informed that exports of fruit and vegetables had markedly increased from the Kandahar area, due in part to the improved security situation.

  • Potatoes: Potatoes are an important food crop in Afghanistan. The province of Wardak is a major producer, but the crop is also produced in Herat, Farah, Ghazni, Logar, Bamyan, Kabul, Paktia, Paktika, Nangarhar and Baglan and in many other provinces. There was a glut of potatoes on several markets during the Missionís visit and prices had dropped to about 1 700 Afghanis/kg (U.S.$ 0.08 per kg).

  • Pulse Crops: Beans, peas, chick-peas and mung beans are important secondary crops in many areas of the country, but especially in Nangarhar, Bamyan, Ghazni, Kunar, Kapisa, Parwan, Kunduz, Baghlan, Zabul, Kandahar, Helmand, Farah and Herat. Mung beans are mixed with rice to make an important traditional dish in Herat.
  • Pastures and Livestock

    According to the SCA Survey of Livestock in 1990, only 16 percent of farmers had no cattle. A general improvement in the numbers of draught oxen was noted by the SCA. The worst provinces from the point of view of damage to livestock numbers were Takhar, Paktia, Logar, Kapisa and Paktika. Livestock numbers in Wardak, Ghazni and Nimruz were reported as stable, while Laghman, Kunar, Helmand and Ghor had regained their pre-1978 position by 1990. All the other provinces had registered an improvement during the period 1987-1990.

    The Kuchi nomads, with a population estimated at 1.5 million, are the main livestock owners in Afghanistan and they trade yoghurt and other animal products for grain. The recent fighting in the north of the country has badly disrupted their traditional grazing patterns. Overall, livestock numbers are still recovering in 1997 and improvements in pastures and alfalfa and clover production as a result of the favourable rain pattern have benefited both the numbers and condition of livestock. The greatest problems facing the livestock industry, however, are shortage of grazing and winter feed with sufficient protein, and health. Wheat straw is the main winter feed, supplemented in some areas by low quality wild plants, alfalfa and clover. Weeds, pulled from cereal crops are also used as poor quality fodder. The scarcity and cost of animal medicines is also a constraint on livestock expansion and improved productivity.


    There are twenty nine provinces in Afghanistan. The Mission used the same regional divisions as the UNDP Action Plan for Immediate Rehabilitation (APIR, October, 1993), which grouped the 29 provinces into 8 "Rehabilitation Regions", as follows:  

    North-East Region

    There are large areas of both irrigated and rainfed wheat in this region. Rice is also an important crop in Baghlan. Reports from FAO staff and from various NGOs confirmed that the 1996/97 growing season was good, with above average and well distributed rainfall, ensuring good crop growth. The planting season was not affected by insecurity, but a serious outbreak of fighting in May is expected to cause some disruption of harvesting. Labour shortages have been exacerbated by recruitment of young men into the fighting units. Thus, the harvest of some crops may be delayed and some shedding and loss of quality is expected. A shortage of diesel fuel is also reported which may hamper harvesting operations. Transplanting of the second rice crop in Baghlan is also being disrupted by fighting and by lack of labour, which may reduce the planted area considerably. The FAO project staff stationed in the region expect yields of irrigated wheat to average 2.1 tons/hectare, with rainfed wheat yields at 0.7 tons/hectare. Rice yields are expected to be about 2.1 tons/hectare.

    The North-East Region, with the exception of the deficit province of Badakhshan, traditionally has produced a surplus which was sold to Kabul. Due to internal strife, the main routes to Kabul are now blocked and the Mission estimates that some 150 000 tons of wheat would be exported from this region northwards into the CIS states.

    North Region

    Although the Mission did not visit this Region, discussions were held with staff of UN agencies and NGOs who had recent experience of the area prior to being evacuated from Mazar last May. The rainfall was reported to be good and well distributed. On average, rainfall during the season amounted to 170 mm compare to 160 mm in the previous year. Planting of crops was reported to have proceeded as usual, with an estimated 10 percent increase in the area planted to rainfed wheat. Due to the insecurity situation, DAP was reported to be unavailable, but some supplies of urea, from the factory in Mazar, were available. The factory, which was established in 1974 with a rated annual capacity of 105 000 tons, is now being run by local commanders. It is not known how much urea is being produced or how much of it is being exported.

    Covered Smut of wheat was the main reported disease, but farmers who used the recommended seed dressing on their seed did not encounter this problem. Stripe rust of wheat was more prevalent this year than in 1996, but estimates of crop losses caused by this disease were not available. No locust attack was reported in 1997, after having been well controlled by ULV spraying of breeding sites and by mechanical control measures undertaken by farmers on the advice of FAO.

    Sunn Pest damage was reported from Khulm District in Balkh Province and from parts of Samangan, but estimates of crop losses were not available. Grasshoppers were, as in previous year, a problem in rice fields. Shortage of labour for harvesting caused by the drafting of young men into militias is expected to be a major problem in 1997. The transplanting of rice is also being hampered by a shortage of labour. Tractor diesel fuel is also lacking and this may also delay harvesting. The resident FAO staff have estimated yields at 2.1 tons/hectare for irrigated wheat and at 0.7 tons/hectare for rainfed wheat. Irrigated barley yields are estimated at 1.75 tons/hectare and maize and rice at 1.6 tons/hectare and 2.1 tons/hectare, respectively.

    West Region

    The West region is a very important irrigated and dry-land farming area. The wheat crop had all been harvested at the time of the Missionís visit and threshing had just begun. Weather conditions were favourable for irrigated and dry-land wheat production, with rains well-distributed throughout the season. Complete weather data were only available for one station, Kuskh, where rainfall for the season was reported to be 294 mm compared to a long-term average of 231 mm. For Herat, some 50 km south, the reported rainfall was 241 mm. Some reports were received from Badghis of very humid weather adversely affecting crop growth. Rainfed wheat yields in Badghis, as reported to the FAO/WFP farmer survey were similar to the national average of 0.7 tons per hectare.

    There was no major internal strife during the season in Farah or Herat, but in Badghis the important irrigation area along the Murghab River, estimated at 20 000 hectares, had to be abandoned prior to planting due to fighting, and approximately 20 000 internally displaced persons fled to camps in Herat.

    Covered Smut was widely seen by the Mission and potential yields are expected to be reduced considerably. Demonstrations on the use of a seed dressing on farms were successful and farmers are becoming aware that this disease can be effectively prevented. Sunn Pest damage was observed in the Kuskh area, north of Herat, but it is difficult to ascertain the exact yield loss from this series of pests.

    A wide range of wheat yields were reported by a total of 104 farmers surveyed, with 27 percent achieving yields of more than 2.5 tons/hectare, 46 percent with yields varying from 1.4 - 2.5 tons/hectare and 27 percent having yields below 1.4 tons/hectare. Overall, yields of irrigated wheat in Herat averaged just under 2 tons/hectare, while rainfed wheat yields averaged just under 0.9 tons per hectare. Seventy-eight percent of farmers reported having used fertilizer and 39 percent used improved seed. This "improved" seed may be as much as 15 or more years old and has long since lost its potential yield and disease resistance traits. It is estimated by FAO staff that only 10 percent of farmers in Herat use seed which can now be regarded as actually improved. However, given the wide variation in yields reported above, the scope for improvement in yields, through use of better quality seed, fertilizer and better tillage is obvious.

    East-Central Region

    Both provinces of this region are high altitude areas, having a severe climate in winter and relying mainly on livestock rearing and, to some extent, on forestry rather than agriculture. A farmer survey was carried out in Ghor where 47 farmers were interviewed to provide information on this season. Bamyan, a chronic food deficit province, due to lack of irrigable land and its high altitude, is the home of the Hazara ethnic group and a dispute with the Taliban in 1997 resulted in the province being blockaded from Ghazni in the east. This has disrupted trade in livestock and timber with Ghazni and as a result, prices of these commodities were reported to have risen in Ghazni. However, its border with the northern province of Samangan was not affected and necessary supplies of wheat and other foods may be brought in from there. The effect of the blockade on food security in Bamyan Province is not known. Rainfall was reported to be satisfactory in Ghor, but no data were available from there or from Bamyan. No major pests or diseases were reported from Ghor. Using information from the Missionís survey, yields from irrigated and rainfed wheat are estimated at 1.5 tons/hectare and 0.5 tons/hectare, respectively, lower than the national average, due to lack of improved seed and fertilizer.

    Central Region

    This is an area of very small farms, producing a wide variety of fruits, as well as wheat. It has suffered massively from war damage, and mine clearance operations are still proceeding in many areas. Kabul City is now reported to be 80 percent free of mines, but many still exist in the fields around the city and even, it was reported to the Mission, in karezes and irrigation canals. Thousands of fruit trees in the environs of Kabul have been cut down and used for fuel in recent years and many of these areas have not been brought back into production because of insecurity, damage to karezes and irrigation canals and the danger of mines.

    Large parts of Parwan and Kapisa and some districts of Wardak are still badly affected by insecurity, with the important Shomali Valley (50 000 hectares of crops) north of Kabul now threatened by the cut-off of a vital irrigation source due to damage to a concrete siphon taking water from the Panshir River in the North-East. The population of the town of Charikar, north of Kabul, estimated at 80 000, has been evacuated due to fighting.

    Traditionally, the food supplies of Kabul were provided by the North and North-East Regions, but this source is now blocked by fighting. Kabul receives its grain supply almost entirely from imports from Peshawar in Pakistan. Some grain also used to come from the Islamic Republic of Iran, but since the border closure in May, no further supplies of flour from the Islamic Republic of Iran were reported to be reaching Kabul. All surrounding provinces have high populations and are unlikely to provide surpluses to the city.

    Rainfall data were not available for the Central Region, but farmers reported that it was a generally good year for crops. Isolated hail damage to fruit trees was reported from Wardak. Pest and disease outbreaks were less than in previous years. The average yield for irrigated wheat, based on reports by 27 farmers in Wardak was 2.6 tons/hectare. The effect of war will have a serious impact on production in Parwan and Kapisa, with much land around Kabul still not rehabilitated from the last fighting.

    East Region

    Kunar used to have significant natural forest cover, but this has been decimated in recent years through indiscriminate logging. The effects of this deforestation are being seen in rapid run-off, giving rise to flash flooding which damages irrigation intakes and contributes seriously to water loss. There is a lack of local leadership to organize repairs of irrigation intakes.

    The district of Shinwar in Nangarhar Province is one of the main producers of opium poppy in Afghanistan. However, poppy cultivation is not regarded as more lucrative than wheat according to the farmer survey. The advantage of the crop is that it is paid for in advance and secondly, that it can be grown in a relatively dry land. Large-scale farms of olive and citrus orchards were established in the 1980s by agronomists from the former U.S.S.R. in the districts to the east of Jalalabad. This is mainly an irrigated area, but the reported above-average rains benefited irrigated crops.

    Smut and stripe rust were reported from all three provinces but the incidence of the latter was much less serious than in 1996. The quality of fertilizer being sold and the scarcity of improved seed were a concern for many farmers. Rice is an important crop in the second season and the Mission observed large areas being planted in the Jalalabad area. Beans and mung beans are also widely grown, together with onions and other vegetable crops, for sale in the city and for export to Pakistan.

    The wheat harvest was almost complete during the Missionís visit to the East region, with farmers reporting very good yields of wheat, varying from 2.1 tons/hectare up to 5.6 tons/hectare for well fertilized crops of improved varieties. However, the overall average yield for irrigated wheat, as reported by 658 farmers interviewed in the farmer survey was 1.9 tons/hectare.

    South Region

    Flooding and hail damage were reported from isolated pockets in Ghazni province. The water table is reported to be dropping in some areas of Ghazni, forcing regular cleaning of kareze irrigation systems to ensure regular flow of water

    Rainfall was above average in Ghazni, with total precipitation of 327 mm recorded from January to May against a 12-year average of 262 mm. Some wheat was reported to have been damaged by frost, but most of the crop was protected by good snowfalls which totalled 50 cm in January and February. Weeds are a major problem in irrigated wheat crops, particularly grass weeds, such as Johnson Grass and Wild Oats.

    Grapes are an important crop in Ghazni, with good returns, which are also obtained from beans and peas, both grown as cash crops.

    Yields of irrigated wheat varied from 1.7 to 2.2 tons/hectare for unimproved varieties, while improved varieties yielded up to 4.2 tons/hectare. These yields were made possible by above average rainfall, absence of stripe rust and improvements to the irrigation infrastructure.

    South-West Region

    The south west region has two major river systems, the Helmand and the Arghandab which between them used to provide 223 000 hectares of irrigated area. However, in recent years, the Helmand River Authority has been disbanded and large areas of formerly irrigated land have become salinized and barren. The inlet to the large Bogra Canal has been damaged during river floods and during fighting, and now delivers only a fraction of its rated capacity, especially for second season crops.

    Sudden floods have also adversely affected the Helmand River, the main source of irrigation water in Helmand Province. Here, due to a number of causes the river has changed course away from the original intake, destroying large areas of former cropland. Farmers interviewed by the Mission now growing crops along the present course of the river are fearful that their crops may be swept away in future flooding destroying their houses.

    Partly as a result of the reduction in irrigation water availability, the cultivation of opium poppy has become widespread in Helmand Province, with some estimates putting 40 percent of the irrigable area under this crop. Poppy production in Kandahar was also reported to have increased substantially in recent years. The lack of agricultural credit is also an incentive to poppy production, as the dealers provide cash advances to farmers to finance the production of the crop.

    Kandahar is a major fruit producing area and exports to Pakistan have sharply increased since 1994 due to the relative security now being provided by the authorities. The value of agricultural commodities, mainly fruits, nuts and vegetables such as onion and potato passing through official trade channels between Kandahar and Pakistan rose from P. Rupees 240 million in the financial year 1994/95, to Rs. 870 million for the first nine months of the financial year 1996/97 (UNDCP, 1997). This increased trade in high value crops has led to a reduction in the area planted to wheat in Kandahar Province in the last few years.

    In Zabul, farmers reported that rainfall was above average, allowing the wheat crop which sometimes only receives one irrigation, to produce a better than average output. Almond cultivation is an important industry in Zabul as this crop requires less water than wheat and there is a good market for the product. Livestock were in good condition in Zabul.

    Table 2 provides the Mission's tentative estimate of the regional distribution of irrigated and rainfed cereal areas, modified from 1967/68 data.

    Table 2 - Regional Distribution of 1997 Cereal Area (Ď000 hectares)
    Region  Irrigated  % of Total  Rainfed  % of Total
    Central  105  20  2
    North-East  290  16  260  29
    East  105  10  1
    South  140  40  4
    South-West  374  21  90  10
    West  270  15  210  23
    North  430  24  220  24
    East-Central  90  50  6
    TOTAL  1 804  100  900  100



    5.1 Cereal Supply/Demand Balance for 1997/98

    For 1997/98, a per caput consumption level of 160 kg is considered desirable and realistic for a population so heavily dependent on bread and rice. The 1997/98 population figure was estimated at 19.5 million by UN organizations in July 1997. Seed requirements are calculated from the areas planted using the fairly high seed rates practised in Afghanistan. Waste is set at 10 percent of production for the three minor cereals and 9 percent for wheat. Grain for animal feed is important in the case of maize and barley, where two-thirds of production is estimated to be fed to livestock. With cattle numbers still not rebuilt, the amounts of feedgrains used are still less than 1970s levels.

    A tentative figure of 150 000 tons of wheat exports is included in the demand on domestic supplies. This is expected to consist entirely of exports of surpluses from the northern provinces into Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Traditionally, northern surpluses were marketed south in the populated central areas, but the current front line blocks that possibility. In view of the likelihood that wheat production has been above normal in the north, the surplus will either be stored or exported. The military presence along the border is likely to facilitate such exports since there are already reports of grain being commandeered by the army and sold for hard currency into the CIS. If the present military situation changes during the year, this could have a significant effect on food supplies in the centre of the country. The cereal supply/demand balance sheet for 1997/98 marketing year is presented in Table 3.

    Table 3 - Afghanistan: Food balance sheet, 1997/98 ('000 tons)
    Wheat  Rice  Maize  Barley  Total
    Total Availability  2 860  420  300  250  3 830
    Opening Stock  150  20  170
    Production  2 710  400  300  250  3 660
    Total Utilization  3 510  480  300  250  4 540
    Food Use  2 650  370  90  10  3 120
    Seed, feed, losses  510  70  210  240  1 030
    Exports  150  10  160
    Closing Stocks  200  30  230
    Import Requirements  650  60  710
    - Commercial  500  60  560
    - Food Aid  150  150

    The total import gap in 1997/98 marketing year amounts to 710 000 tons, of which 560 000 tons are expected to be met by commercial imports and 150 000 tons from emergency food aid, as in 1996/97. The source of imports will mainly be Pakistan, particularly in the form of flour, entering principally via Peshawar for the east and central areas, and via Quetta for the south. Some wheat is already being imported from Kazakhstan to markets in Herat. Lower quality rice is imported from Pakistan, whilst small quantities of domestic high grade rice are exported. Although it appears that food requirements could be met in 1997/98, the Mission would emphasise that this is in the situation of a very favourable season. If next year were less favourable, either imports would have to rise above their already high level, or consumption would fall below requirements.

    At the time of the Mission, all cereal prices had fallen from the record levels of May 1997, caused by the Pakistan export ban imposed in February. In many markets, prices halved soon after the ban was lifted in May and remained stable at around 6 500 Afghanis/kg for domestic wheat, 7 500 Afghanis/kg for imported flour and between 6 000 and 12 000 Afghanis/kg for rice (depending on quality). Nevertheless, compared with a year ago, cereal prices are 100 percent higher and the currency is 50 percent lower against the U.S. dollar. As the harvest comes on stream, some further easing of prices seems likely, not only due to increased supply but also because current prices are still out of reach of many urban dwellers.

    Effective demand is sharply reduced at these high prices; one alternative being used by the poor is to replace bread with potatoes which are currently cheap due to heavy domestic supplies.

    Other coping strategies of the disadvantaged include the use of family remittances from abroad, the sale of personal assets, petty trade, begging, and food sharing in the extended family. In the worst-hit towns (especially Kabul), such strategies are over-stretched and for many people, food aid is the only available food source. The requirement for food aid in 1997/98 is outlined below.

    5.2 Emergency Food Aid Requirements

    Eighteen years of civil stife and neglect have destroyed much of Afghanistan's material and human resources and continue to tax the coping mechanisms and energies of the most resilient strata of the Afghan society. Childhood malnutrition is between 15-20 percent, and under-five mortality 26 percent. A mere 26 percent of the population has access to health care services and only 12 percent have access to safe drinking water. An estimated 2.5 million Afghans are internally displaced in the country at large. An undetermined number of the 3 million returnees are reportedly in urban areas bordering Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. They are in search of employment opportunities, medical services, food and basic social services. In addition a vast majority of the war-affected rural population are struggling with the task of rebuilding their lives especially in peaceful areas.

    The struggle for power between the Taliban and the northern authorities has resulted to a political stalemate in the formation of a broad-based government. Consequently, the breakdown of the economy, ongoing civil strife in pockets of the country and prolonged lack of administrative structures will, in the immediate future, continue to impact most in terms of lives lost, poverty, deprivation, destruction of socio-economic assets and environmental degradation. The socio-economic conditions prevailing in the country continue to deteriorate on a daily basis due to lack of employment opportunities, non-payment of salaries by local authorities in an inflationary economy, and decline in purchasing power. For example, the salary of a clerk (if paid) is U.S.$ 15 a month, whilst expenditure for bread and tea alone for a family of six is U.S.$ 37 a month. Although there is no starvation in Afghanistan, hunger and malnutrition are real among the poor and vulnerable.

    In total, an estimated 1.75 million Afghans comprising the most vulnerable strata of the Afghan society will require relief and rehabilitation assistance in the immediate future.These vulnerable groups include internally-displaced persons, returnees, female-headed households, the sick and elderly, the unemployed and orphans. As the pressure on urban centres is great, assistance will need to be increasingly and gradually shifted to rural areas to facilitate self-reliant re-integration and resettlement of communities.

    Relief assistance to the war affected will, in the immediate future, serve as income transfer until purchasing power is revived to guarantee a basic minimum nutritional intake. Rehabilitation assistance through food-for-work in rural and urban areas should include, provided there is equal participation and results for both men and women:

    1. Support for food production - food-for-seeds, rehabilitation of irrigation networks and drainage, agricultural land rehabilitation, flood control and agro-forestry.

    2. Support for reintegration and resettlement of communities - rehabilitation of health delivery systems, rehabilitation of schools where boys and girls have equal access, repair of essential farm to market roads, and shelter reconstruction assistance.

    3. Human resource rehabilitation through vocational training in marketable skills and support for income generating activities.

    For the 1997/98 year, 170 000 tons of total food aid will be required (including 150 000 tons of cereals). Of this amount, the World Food Programme is expected to supply 140 000 tons, (similar to last year), ICRC, 20 000 tons and the remainder will be from other donors (e.g. CARE at 4 000 tons).

    This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required. 
    Abdur Rashid  Ms. J. Cheng-Hopkins
    Chief, GIEWS FAO  Regional Director, OAP, WFP
    Telex 610181 FAO I  Telex: 626675 WFP 1
    Fax: 0039-6-5705-4495  Fax: 0039-6-6513-2209 
    E-mail:GIEWS1@FAO.ORG  E-Mail: Judy.Cheng-Hopkins@WFP.ORG

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