2 July 1998


  • Afghan agriculture recovered in the peaceful areas of the country, but the over-riding feature this year has been heavy snowfalls and low temperatures during winter, and high rainfall in spring. 

  • Flood damage to irrigated crops, together with a high incidence of yellow rust in wheat, have depressed irrigated cereal yields. But heavy rains benefited dryland crops especially in the north and marginal irrigated areas in the south. 

  • The earthquake on 30 May devastated a large area around Shar e Buzurg with heavy loss of life. Irrigated crops will be badly affected locally due to damage to canals and karezes. Some rainfed wheat crop in the area may remain unharvested due to labour shortages. 

  • 1998 cereal production estimated to be the largest since 1978, but blocked supply routes will prevent surpluses in the north reaching Badakshan and Bamyam and the heavily populated areas around Kabul. 

  • National cereal import requirement estimated at 740 000 tons, slightly higher than last year, due to population growth and an increase in emergency food aid needs. Kabul, and several other major cities, almost completely dependent on imported cereals, mainly from Pakistan. 

  • Emergency food aid for 1998/99 forecast at 140 000 tonnes of cereals for IDPs, widows and orphans, and those affected by floods and earthquakes, or isolated by blockades imposed by warring factions. 


The Afghan economy has been disrupted by near-continuous civil strife since 1979. The consequent displacement of large numbers of people and massive unemployment have led to extremely low income levels and limited access to food, especially in urban areas. Agriculture has also suffered - from damaged irrigation structures, land mines and from the migration of farmers out of insecure areas. Food production has been affected, and the country has moved from near self-sufficiency in the mid-1970s to heavy dependency on imports (from the USSR in the 1980s and from Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 1990s). Most of the imported food is consumed in the urban areas.

Although Afghanistan has been only around 70 percent self-sufficient in cereals during most of this decade, there is evidence of rising production in the last two or three years, as a result of greater security in some areas. Following the 1997 FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which estimated last yearís national cereal production to be the highest for several years, an FAO/WFP Mission, supported by UNDP, was fielded to Afghanistan from 4-27 May 1998, to estimate the 1998 cereal harvest and cereal import requirements for the 1998/99 marketing year, to ascertain whether the rising trend towards self-sufficiency observed in 1997 was continuing and to assess the regional food situation within the country. Particular attention was to be focused on

Bamyan and Badakshan, traditional food deficit areas almost completely cut off from their normal supply routes. The Mission visited 15 of the 30 provinces, mostly in the west and the east of the country, including Bamyan and Badakshan. The north was not visited for security reasons and it proved impossible to include the south-west in the itinerary. However, the coverage was extended by a survey of 1 600 farmers conducted by the local missions, extending into a number of regions not visited by the Mission.

Extensive discussions were held with staff of UNDP, WFP, FAO and various NGOs, both in Afghanistan and in Islamabad and Peshawar. Various reports on Afghanistan were critically reviewed, including the results of the survey of farmers. The Mission used the statistical base formulated by the 1997 FAO/WFP Mission, when the regional cropped areas were estimated using an extrapolation of the 1968 agricultural census data with modifications based on two more recent satellite surveys and further adjustments by the team. Yield estimates were based on the field visits, the farmer survey results and discussions with many farmers, and on the various agronomic factors which have affected this yearís outturn. Cereal production estimates for both 1997 and 1998 were cross-checked against estimates of national consumption and imports, using a balance sheet approach.

The recovery of agriculture in peaceful areas of the country continued in 1998 and overall cereal production has again increased. The Mission has estimated the 1998 total cereal production at 3.85 million tonnes, 5 percent higher than last year, comprising 2.83 million tonnes of wheat, 450 000 tonnes of paddy, 330 000 tonnes of maize and 240 000 tonnes of barley. The 1998 harvest is the largest since 1978, although some localized areas suffered from extensive flooding which damaged both standing crops and irrigation infrastructures. The increase in harvest was due to farmersí responses to high prices of last year (above US$300 per tonne) which encouraged farmers to plant relatively more areas of wheat, and to generally favourable precipitation during winter and spring. In addition, improved security in many areas and some limited progress in agricultural rehabilitation have also contributed to the good harvest.

However, above-normal humidity has led to high levels of Yellow Rust (Puccinia striiformis) in wheat, which has depressed yields considerably. The combination of localized flooding (e.g. in the south-west and sporadically in the north-west) and the widespread incidence of rust has resulted in a decline of yields of irrigated crops.

Whilst irrigated cereal production is slightly lower than last yearís good crop, rainfed wheat production is forecast to be up by 29 percent. This may as in 1997, lead to local surpluses in the North, since the traditional movement of grain to Kabul and the south is impeded by several front lines. Low wheat prices have already been reported in Kunduz. Such surpluses may well lead to exports into the CIS countries and to higher than normal carryover stocks. The eight northern provinces (North and Northeast in Table 1) are forecast to produce around 1.5 million tonnes of cereals this year (40 percent of the total) on the assumption of relative security over the next few months. However, if the intensity of military activities increases or the conflict widens, harvest could be interrupted and the forecast would have to be revised downwards.

Despite a favourable outlook for this yearís cereal harvest, large imports will be required to feed the growing population. Total imports are forecast at 740 000 tonnes for the 1998/99 marketing year (July/June), slightly higher than last year. The Mission has estimated the 1998/99 emergency food aid at 140 000 tonnes of wheat, as a result of an increase in emergency needs attributed to floods, earthquakes and blocked supply routes in some areas.



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 20 million and contains four main ethnic groups, each with its own identity. Conflict has afflicted the country 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 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 following the relative peace of the last three years in the south of the country.

However, the 19-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 highest figures in the world for infant and maternal mortality, life expectancy, and lowest as regards 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 military effort led to a serious fall in output and trade, very high inflation and a steep and continuous drop in the currency's value until recently, when the situation in the south of the country became more stable and food prices became less volatile. In Taliban-controlled areas, exports of horticultural produce to Pakistan have increased and there are signs of a return to more normal commercial life, particularly in the east and south, and in Herat. Kabul, where the infrastructure has been severely damaged, is only 25 km from 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 more inflationary.

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 is some 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 1998 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, except in areas where conflict and blockades disrupt trading channels and in those affected by natural disasters (i.e., earthquake, floods).



Afghanistan has not been self-sufficient in cereals since 1976, when production peaked at 4.5 million tonnes. 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 since 1995, where markets have operated more normally, de-mining has improved access and safety, and farmers have responded to strong crop prices. Although civil unrest continues in the north, national production in 1998 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. Cereal production forecast for the 1998/99 marketing year, with a comparison against revised estimates for the 1997/98 marketing year, is given in Table 1.

Table 1. Afghanistan: Area, Yield and Production of Cereal Crops by Region 1997/98 and 1998/99

1997/98  1998/99 
Area ('000 ha  Yield 
('000 tonnes) 
('000 ha) 
('000 tonnes)
Irrigated Wheat 
Central  71  142  69  1.7  117
North-east  197  1.7  335  200  1.6  320
East  71  1.9  135  75  1.7  128
South  95  1.5  142  95  1.5  143
South-west  254  1.8  457  270  1.7  459
West  183  1.8  329  190  1.9  361
North  292  1.6  467  280  1.5  420
East-Central  61  1.2  73  55  1.3  72
Sub-total  1 224  1.7  2 080  1 234  1.6  2 020
Rainfed Wheat 
Central  20  0.8  16  20  0.9  18
Northeast  260  0.6  156  260  0.7  182
East  10  0.8  10  0.9  9
South  40  0.8  32  42  0.8  34
Southwest  90  0.8  72  90  0.9  81
West  210  0.8  168  230  230
North  220  0.7  154  250  0.9  225
East-Central  50  0.5  25  50  0.7  35
Sub-Total  900  0.7  631  952  0.9  814
All Wheat  2 124  2 711  2 186  2 834
Secondary crops (by crop) 
Rice (paddy)  180  2.2  400  180  2.5  450
Maize  200  1.5  300  200  1.6  330
Barley (for grain)  200  1.3  250  200  1.2  240
Sub-Total  580  950  580  1.8  1 020
TOTAL CEREALS  2 704  1.4  3 661  2 766  1.4  3 854

3.1 Rainfall During the 1997/98 Cropping Season

Rainfall was reported to be generally well distributed during the growing season. In Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, the rainfall during the four months from November to March was 275 mm, more than the annual average for the area. Snowfalls were unusually heavy over most of the country, with 187 cm being recorded at Ghazni. This snow remained for longer than usual in Ghazni and Bamyan provinces in particular, delaying the preparation of land for the spring wheat crop. Rainfall of 180 mm was recorded at Ghazni between October and 20 May. As the spring wheat crop requires at least four months of growing period, there is a danger that late sown crops may fail to ripen due to cold weather at harvest in Bamyan province. Cold conditions continued later in the spring than usual, with final snow melting off fields well into March. In Ghazni 19 of the 31 days in March recorded sub-zero temperatures. The extreme cold damaged some crops in Logar, Paktia and Ghazni (the lowest temperature recorded in Ghazni city in January was -22 degrees Celsius) and this will have a significant effect on yield potential of irrigated wheat in these provinces.

Floods in parts of Kandahar and Helmand provinces in March caused localized crop damage. Parts of Nimroz and Uruzgan also suffered flood damage. Floods have also affected crops in the northern provinces of Samangan and Jowzjan, where an estimated 3 000 hectares were destroyed. But the heavy rains benefited those areas which are at the end of canal irrigation systems and also rainfed wheat crops all over the country.

Rainfall in Herat was reported to be well distributed and ample for the rainfed wheat crop, also ensuring good crops in all irrigated areas. Rainfall continued up to harvest time in Kunar and Laghman provinces but stopped in time to permit harvesting in good conditions. In the north, heavier than normal rains are reported to have benefited most rainfed crops, including wheat.

3.2 Area Planted

The area under irrigated wheat is estimated to have increased by 10 000 hectares to 1 234 000 hectares, due to farmers returning from refugee camps in Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran to begin cultivation again; to continued progress in mine clearing and in the repair of irrigation infrastructures; and to increasing use of deep well pumps in Ghazni and Paktika. The area under dryland wheat increased from 900 000 hectares to 952 000 hectares, mainly in the west and north. Above-normal rainfall in the Herat area reduced the production of white cumin, which competes for land with dryland wheat, and good returns obtained last year encouraged farmers to plant larger areas (where land was available). Areas of dryland wheat are also reported to have increased in the northern provinces of Balkh, Faryab, Samangan and Jozjan.

On the other hand, competition for land with poppy is increasing. Poppy cultivation increased significantly in Nangarhar and in Badakshan. Lack of wheat seed in Bamyan following a disastrous harvest in 1997 in this area, allied to the effects of the blockade and of serious local flooding, reduced the area sown to wheat. Increasing use of land for vegetable cultivation in the East in particular, is reducing the amount of land available for irrigated wheat. The cold spring and consequent late melting of snow reduced spring wheat areas in Bamyan, and in parts of Paktika and Ghazni.

3.3 Agricultural Inputs

Seed: FAO project staff estimate that the majority of farmers (about 98 percent) save their own seed. Local varieties - with yields from 1.2 to 1.5 tonnes per hectare - are the most widely grown. In the last two seasons, a total of 8,400 tonnes of improved seeds, mainly irrigated wheat, were distributed to 78 000 farmers throughout the country by the FAO/WFP/UNDP Food-for-Seed Project. These seeds, which can yield over 3.5 tonnes/hectare were distributed with the recommended amount of fertilizer to achieve optimum economic yields. The Mission saw some crops in Ghazni which appeared to produce higher yields. Main varieties, such as Pamir 94, are resistant to Yellow Rust. It is important that new resistant varieties to Yellow Rust be continually added to the system so that when the resistance breaks down, new sources of resistance are available. Uptake of improved seed by farmers is highest in Kabul, Wardak, Herat, Helmand, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman. The shorter straws of improved varieties is a disincentive to adoption by farmers with livestock as they value the fodder highly.

Fertilizers and Pesticides: Most farmers in Afghanistan are well aware of the value of fertilizers. However, lack of cash is a major constraint to increased usage of both urea and DAP, the main fertilizer types. Farmers thus tend to use much less than the recommended amounts. In 1998, supplies of DAP were reduced in much of the country. Traders in Ghazni reported that demand had slipped compared to the previous year, due mainly to the blockade on the supply of inputs to Bamyan Province, traditionally a large market. Fertilizer prices increased to about 6 200 Afghanis/kg (urea) in the eastern provinces. But in the blockade-affected Bamyan Province, prices for urea more than doubled, due mainly to increased transport costs caused by insecurity along the roads to the north and the blockade to the east. This severely reduced usage of fertilizer on wheat as farmers could not afford them at such prices. Farmers in Bamyan still continued to use some fertilizers on the potato crop, as they are aware that without them yields decline sharply. Poor quality of fertilizers was reported by some farmers, with salt being added to urea by unscrupulous traders.

The severe weed problems on many farms have prompted farmers to purchase herbicides from dealers. Farmers are not weeding fields of wheat by hand in the larger land holdings, presumably due to labour constraints. Some hand weeding was being done in parts of Ghazni, Bamyan and Wardak. However, weed control is absolute in poppy fields.

Tractors and Oxen: The use of tractors continues to increase, allowing ever larger areas, particularly of dryland wheat, to be cultivated in the East, Southeast, Southwest and West regions. No shortage of animal draught was reported by farmers. Mechanized threshing is now general in the east of the country, saving labour of both farmers and animals and allowing quicker land preparation for summer crops (maize, rice and mung beans).

Irrigation: Over half of the land area in Afghanistan receives less than 300 mm of rainfall annually. So, agriculture depends highly on irrigation and on the melted snow in the spring for the rainfed wheat in the north and west areas of the country. Due to climatic constraints, only an estimated 14 percent of irrigated land can be double cropped, mainly in Takhar, Kunduz, Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman, Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

Limited repair projects for irrigation infrastructures were carried out in 1998. However, routine maintenance and repair of canals and karezes continued in many areas of the country. Above-normal rainfall this year reduced the need for irrigation and moisture was sufficient for crops sown at the end of canal systems. Heavy floods in the major rivers caused damage to irrigation inlets and caused siltation of fields in several provinces, including Helmand, Kandahar, Kunar, Bamyan and Badghis.

In recent years, farmers in Ghazni province have begun to invest in diesel pumps to provide irrigation water from deep wells, but dealers reported that demand for pumps in 1998 was reduced, due to favourable rainfall.

Problems with blocked kareze irrigation systems were reported from Ghazni, Paktia and Paktika, resulting in farmers failing to produce enough food from their land and forcing them to seek other jobs in Pakistan to earn additional cash to meet family needs.

3.4 Cereal Yields and Production

The Mission has estimated the national average yield of irrigated wheat at 1.64 tonnes/hectare in 1998, a decline of 3.5 percent compared to the previous year. The main causes of this decline are: (i) much higher incidence of Yellow Rust (Puccinia striiformis) on local varieties; (ii) severe localized winter kill in Logar; Ghazni, Paktia and Paktika provinces; (iii) poor grain fill due to cold overcast weather in the three eastern provinces; and (iv) high incidence of grass weeds in the provinces of Logar, Ghazni, Paktia, Paktika and in parts of Wardak. Production of irrigated wheat is estimated at 2.02 million tonnes, 3 percent below that of the previous year. Yields of rainfed wheat are expected to increase from 0.7 tonnes/hectare in 1997/98 to 0.86 tonnes/hectare this year, due to favourable rainfall in the major growing areas together with much larger than average snowfalls over the winter. Total production of dryland wheat is forecast to increase by 29 percent to 814 000 tonnes, more than offsetting the drop in production of irrigated wheat.

Maize: Maize is grown as a summer crop following winter wheat in the Central, East and South-east regions and in some areas of Kandahar. Planting had only just begun during the missionís visit and the planted area is expected to be similar to that of the previous year at about 200 000 hectares. The crop is sown at a very high seed rate, with the thinning being used as animal fodder. Water availability was better than usual, due to high river flows augmented by melted snow and this, together with good fertilizer availability, should ensure better than average crops.

Rice: The first rice fields for the summer crop were being planted during the missionís visit. The main crop will be planted in June and water availability is above average. The availability of fertilizer and other inputs, including improved seed is also good. Rice is an important crop in Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman, Takhar, Kunduz and Herat.

Barley: Barley is mainly grown in the higher altitude areas of Bamyan, Badakhshan and Ghor, Takhar and Kunduz. Most is grown for livestock, but barley is also an important human food in Bamyan Province.

3.5 Other Crops

Fruits and Vegetables: Many farmers in Logar, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni face serious losses due to various pests and diseases on tree crops such as apples and apricots. The most important pests were Codling Moth on apples and Tent Caterpillars. Unscrupulous dealers were reported to have sold adulterated and ineffective chemicals to farmers in Ghazni. In the absence of government controls, these activities are difficult to eradicate.

Vegetable production is becoming very important in Laghman and other provinces which are near to Pakistan and to the city markets of Kabul and Jalalabad. Onions and cucumbers are the main crops produced. Farmers can pay much higher rent for land for vegetable production than for wheat. Poppy cultivation increased substantially in 1998, due to a combination of factors, including the availability of credit for inputs such as fertilizer, which gives a major advantage to this crop compared to wheat. Some farmers in Nangarhar reported that the yields of the crop were low due to the damp cool conditions during the growing season.

Potatoes: Potatoes are a major crop in Bamyan, Wardak, Paktia, Logar, Ghazni, Herat, Farah, Kabul, Paktika, Nangarhar and Baghlan. The potato crop is also a major cash crop in Bamyan. Due to the blockade of the Hazarajat area, farmers in Bamyan were unable to sell potatoes outside the province, as they would normally do, with the proceeds being used to buy grain and other necessities. As a result, potato prices collapsed in Bamyan and many crops were damaged by the severe winter weather. Elsewhere, potato prices were also reported to be very low, following a very good 1997 harvest. No potato processing technology is used to preserve the crop, making it solely dependent on the fresh market. Grasshoppers were seen to be causing defoliation of potato crops in Laghman and Kunar Provinces and this will have an adverse effect on yields.

Pulse Crops: Mung beans are an important summer crop in many provinces, including Kunar, Nangarhar and Laghman. Chick peas, cowpeas, field peas and various types of beans are also important throughout the country.

3.6 Pastures and Livestock

The sale of livestock and livestock products provides the main source of cash income for many families throughout Afghanistan. Marketing arrangements for cattle were disrupted for some weeks in Kandahar during late 1997, as a result of a government attempt to exert more influence on the market, but have now returned to normal. Reference has already been made to the blockade of trade with Bamyan province which is preventing the normal livestock trade there.

There is a structural deficiency of livestock feed in Afghanistan. Crops of clover and alfalfa are widely grown for stock, but these compete with food crops for scarce land and so, production is very limited in many provinces. Wheat straw and chaff, together with various wild plants are the major sources of winter feed. This year, with the extended winter, feed supplies were exhausted and livestock suffered severe starvation. Some farmers reported outbreaks of abortion, but according to the FAO Livestock Project staff these could have been a result of malnutrition rather than being caused by Brucellosis. Large numbers of grasshoppers were seen damaging crops of alfalfa and clover in the East Region, but no insecticides were being used to control them. Good crops of alfalfa were being cut during the Missionís visit in many provinces.



There are thirty provinces in Afghanistan. The Mission used, like in 1997, the same regional divisions as the UNDP Action Plan for Immediate Rehabilitation (APIR, October, 1993), which grouped the 30 provinces into 8 "Rehabilitation Regions", as follows:

North-East Region: This Region consists of four provinces namely Kunduz, Takhar, Badakhshan, and Baghlan. It comprises 15 percent of the countryís population. The Mission did not visit this region due to the security situation.

North Region: This Region includes Balkh, Samangan, Jaozjan, Faryab. Fifteen percent of the total population lives in this region which was not visited by the Mission due to the security situation.

West Region: This Region consists of three provinces namely Herat, Farah, Badghis. Its population represents 9 percent of the total population. The Mission visited this region.

East Central Region: This Region comprises two provinces namely Ghor and Bamyan. Five percent of the total population lives in this Region. Each of the two provinces was visited by the Mission.

Central Region: This Region includes five provinces namely Kabul, Parwan, Kapisa, Wardak, Logar. It has 20 percent of the total population.

East Region: This Region comprises three provinces namely Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar. Eleven percent of the total population lives in this province.

South Region: This Region includes four provinces namely Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni and Khost. Its population represents 10 percent of the total.

Southwest Region: This Region includes Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, Nimroz, and Uruzgan. It comprises 15 percent of the total population.

North-East Region

Kunduz, Takhar and Baghlan are major wheat producing provinces, while Badakshan has little irrigated land and the main crop is rainfed wheat. Poppy is also a major, and increasingly important, crop in Badakhshan. Due to security constraints, only Badakhshan could be visited by the Mission, but an on-farm survey was conducted in Takhar, Kunduz and Baghlan by WFP and FAO staff. According to this survey, cereal production in 1998 has been good, as a result of heavy and well distributed rainfall resulting in high yields of over 2.5 tonnes/hectare on some farms.

The Mission paid particular attention to Badakshan. Rainfall in Badakshan was well distributed and adequate for the dryland wheat crop, which is usually planted in November/December and harvested in July. Erosion is a serious problem as the natural vegetation has been removed for firewood and building poles with no replanting being done. Infiltration of rain is reduced, leading to flash flooding which causes severe erosion in fields and deposition of stones, silt and gravel on the valley bottoms. In 1998, heavy rains caused some local flood damage to crops and siltation of fields.

Some potatoes, melons and vegetables are also planted in Badakshan. Due to conflicts and to landslides which continually cut the main supply route to the provinces of Takhar and Kunduz, normal trade patterns for fertilizer were disrupted during the year, resulting in much higher prices for urea. The road to Tajikistan in the north is closed to most trade. Most wheat crops were infested with weeds, partly because most labour was involved in weeding the more lucrative poppy crop and partly because young men were involved in military activities away from the farm.

The region has been hit by two severe earthquakes in 1998. The first, in February, severely damaged villages between 5 and 20 km east and south of Rustaq in Takhar province. The infrastructure and some irrigation works were damaged but the effect on crop production was relatively small, this being predominantly a rainfed area, and the event occurred before spring planting. The second earthquake occurred on 30 May 1998, just after the mission had left the country. Its epicentre was at Shar e Buzurg in Badakhshan some 30 km north east of Rustaq and a similar distance north west of Faizabad. But its effects were felt over a wider area than in February, and after-shocks continued for several days after the main event. Heavy loss of life occurred from Rustaq to the outskirts of Faizabad, and many villages were devastated in this well-populated area between the two towns and north to the Tajikistan border. International emergency services were immediately involved in air-lifting victims to available hospitals in the area, and providing medicines, tents and blankets. Food assistance was delivered to stranded communities who had lost stocks of food.

In Badakshan, food scarcity and very high prices for grain are also caused by lack of access to normal trade routes, including north to Tajikistan. Landslides caused by quickly melting snow and heavy rain have blocked the traditional supply routes to Takhar and Kunduz to the west. Prospects for the current wheat crop are reasonably favourable due the benefit of heavy rains on a largely rainfed crop. On the other hand, heavy weed infestations are a problem in wheat, and there is strong competition for labour from the lucrative and expanding poppy crop. Fertilizer use on wheat will also be down as supplies will be limited due to access problems. Areas planted to wheat will be up in Bedakshan, and yields may be slightly above average. But even with good provincial food production, deficits will continue to arise unless access and markets can be opened up later this year.

The effect of the second earthquake on 1998 food production will be greater than in February because of the wider area affected and the timing of the earthquake early in the growing season. The missionís field survey had collected optimistic reports on expected irrigated wheat yields in Takhar and Badakhshan but these will now require some downward revision. Irrigation canals and karezes have been damaged and the output of irrigated crops will be severely affected locally on both sides of the Takhar/Badakhshan border.

The much more important rainfed crops will be less affected, and there may still be very good dryland wheat crops which have benefited from heavy spring rains. The problem may well be a shortage of labour for weed control and harvest in the affected areas where people have been displaced or are fully occupied in rebuilding their homes.

Overall, the yield of the main dryland wheat crop in North East region is expected to increase from 0.6 tonnes/hectare in 1997 to 0.7 tonnes/hectare in 1998.

North Region

Due to the security situation, the Mission could not visit the provinces of Balkh, Samangan, Faryab and Jawzjan. These provinces are major producers of dryland wheat, with considerable areas of irrigated wheat. Balkh Province is regarded as just self-sufficient in food production, whereas the other provinces in the Northern region normally produce a surplus for sale to other regions of Afghanistan, including Kabul. The continued insecurity in the region has interfered with normal trade flows to Kabul and therefore, some of its surplus production is expected to be exported northwards to CIS countries. However no official data on these exports could be obtained. As a result of the closure of the "Friendship Bridge" on the border with Uzbekistan, fuel prices were reported to have sharply risen and this will likely increase transport costs and reduce the use of tractors in agriculture.

Weather conditions were very favourable for the dryland wheat crop and estimated cropped area increased by 14 percent to 250 000 hectares, with yields estimated at 0.9 tonnes/hectare, compared to 0.7 tonnes/hectare in the previous season. However, severe storms were reported on 7 April in the surplus producing provinces of Jawzjan and Samangan. An estimated 3 000 hectares of wheat crops were reported to have been destroyed. Production of irrigated wheat is estimated at 420 000 tonnes, a decline of 10 percent compared to 1997, mainly due to a decline in yields caused by Yellow Rust and local storm damage.

West Region

This is an important region for wheat, with irrigated crops mainly along the rivers in Farah and Herat accounting for 15 percent of the national area, and dryland wheat, mainly in Badghis, representing 24 percent of the countryís rainfed wheat land. As in most of the country, winter snows have been heavy and spring rainfall well above average. Flooding has occurred in Farah from the Gulistan mountains, affecting crops in Bakwah, Balabaluk and Lash e Juwain districts where there have been heavy losses of crops. Floods in Herat have been more scattered, but on 18 May, a major storm caused considerable damage in Badghis to an area from Qadis to Turgundi and further west. Initial estimates put hail damage to wheat at 24 000 hectares (40 percent loss) around Qalinow. Despite this heavy precipitation, the net effect of above-normal rainfall this year has been beneficial. Irrigated crops mostly have had ample water flows (except storm-damaged irrigation structures), and rainfed crops will benefit from larger areas planted and better yields. Irrigated wheat in Herat appeared exceptionally good during the missionís visit with a still larger incidence of improved varieties and good use of fertilizer (both DAP and urea are readily available in Herat city). Farmers were largely optimistic and the Survey suggests an increase in yield, mainly because of better water supplies. Yellow rust is less severe than in the east of the country. However, in the mountainous and food deficit district of Cheshti Sharif (160 km east of Herat), serious problems of rust and smut were reported during the Survey and yields will be reduced. Areas planted to rainfed crops were also well above average, especially in Badghis. White cumin plantings have risen but the total rainfed cropped area has increased so much that the area sown to wheat has also increased. There are still risks of Sunn pest in the dryland wheat crops and weeds are more prevalent this year, but crop disease is negligible. Dryland wheat farmers are predicting multiplication rates of 10 to 20 times - much higher than usual. Cereal prices in the main western markets (Herat and Farah) reflect import prices, plus transport cost to places like Qalinow and Obey. But prices for wheat grain are levelling off in anticipation of a good harvest from the end of May.

For the West region as a whole, the mission has forecast an increase in area sown to wheat (mainly rainfed) and higher yields than last year, especially for the rainfed crop. This generally favourable outlook should not overshadow the localized severe effects of flooding and storm damage in this year affected areas (SW Farah, Northern Herat and Western Badghis).

East-Central Region

The provinces of Ghor and Bamyan are situated high in the Hindu Kush, with cultivation up to 4 500 metres above sea level. Due to poor snowfalls in the 1996/97 season, the previous winter wheat crop had been very poor. This year, the winter wheat crop is much better due to above-normal snowfalls. Local experts estimate that about half of the wheat crop is normally sown in September/October, with 30 percent being irrigated wheat planted in the spring, and the remaining 20 percent being dryland spring wheat. The extended winter of 1997/98 has, however, delayed land preparation for the irrigated and dryland spring wheat crop. Some farmers had, due to certain constraints, consumed the wheat set aside for seed.

The Mission paid particular attention to Bamyan. This province has been under blockades from the north and south for more than one year, leading to severe distortions to the local economy. This deficit area is dependent on imported cereals sold in exchange for livestock, potatoes and handcrafts. Very little of this trade has been possible, resulting in food scarcity, high cereal prices out of reach of most people, and surplus potatoes and livestock. Farmers who could not sell potatoes and cattle were reported to be exchanging at prices less than half of their normal value. Compared to flour, prices of livestock have fallen much more. As most families have only very few livestock, this is a ruinous situation, which is worst in the southern districts of Panjau and Waras. In these districts, heavy flooding occurred in May which damaged an estimated 500 hectares of crops in Panjau, together with a large number of irrigation inlets and other structures. This is a major disaster for the landowners and sharecroppers concerned. In addition, the current crop will suffer from an estimated 60 percent fall in fertilizer use as farmers were unable to purchase normal amounts due to lack of cash and very high fertilizer prices for smuggled supplies. Prospects for 1998/99 are therefore unfavourable for Bamyan generally and, in addition, some high valleys have suffered flooding and landslides this spring.

In the East-Central region as a whole, the better than average rains have assisted the dryland wheat crop and yields are expected to be up from 0.5 tons/hectare in 1997 to 0.7 tons/hectare this year. Irrigated wheat yields are also expected to be improved due to the heavy snowfall which protected crops from the extreme cold and provided moisture for growth in the spring.

Central Region

This region comprises the five provinces surrounding the city of Kabul. Farms are typically small and progressive, although there remains considerable damage to irrigation systems from the fighting over Kabul. Crops are predominantly irrigated, using karezes, open canals, streams and springs. Water is mainly diverted from natural rivers and streams and is distributed to the fields through a complex network of channels and culverts. Kabul province grows nearly half of the wheat in this region and is drained by the Kabul river, which is much higher than normal this year because of heavy snow in winter and a wet spring. Water supplies are more than adequate and some damage has occurred to irrigation structures together with localized flooding and hail. In Wardak, Logar and Kabul weed populations are high, which will reduce cereal yields. Yellow Rust is also very prevalent this year and is affecting wheat production in the south of Kabul and in Logar. Parwan and Kapisa are in the conflict zone and plantings are reduced due to migration of some rural populations. Farmers are shifting away from wheat production, as yields of potato and onion are higher than wheat yields.

On the positive side, the use of improved varieties has again expanded, with 100 tonnes of improved wheat seed being distributed in Kabul and 50 tonnes of wheat seed distributed in both Wardak and Logar, respectively. Fertilizer consumption seems to have held up despite the increase in prices. The price ratio of fertilizer to wheat grain is currently favourable (one kg of wheat is 33% more expensive than that of urea) and farmers have continued to apply fertilizers this year as long as cash was available to purchase these inputs. Wheat crops appeared vigorous, except where affected by rust, and farmers were generally optimistic. However, the mission expects wheat yields to be down from last yearís levels mainly because of rust, weed competition and storm damage. With areas unchanged from last year, wheat production is forecast to fall by 15 percent to 135 000 tonnes for the region as a whole. Most of this production is consumed on the farm and in the rural areas, leaving Kabul almost solely dependent on flour and rice imports from Pakistan through Torkham, for which markets remain firm.

East Region

The harvest was almost complete in the three eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman during the Missionís visit. In Laghman, the area planted to irrigated wheat is estimated to have increased by 5 percent due to returnees from Pakistan taking up their land again with the support of UNHCR. Regional average yields are estimated at 1.7 tonnes/hectare, compared to 1.9 tonnes/hectare last year. The production of irrigated wheat is estimated at 128 000 tonnes, a decline of just over 5 percent from last year. This decline is due to the widespread incidence of Yellow Rust, which reduced potential yields of local varieties by 20-30 percent. The incidence of this fungus disease was assisted by the cool, humid conditions prevailing during the growing season. Rust damage was also widespread in Kunar and Nangarhar, reducing yield, grain size and quality. Smut was also reported to have affected crops of local wheat varieties, for which few receive seed dressing before planting. Good water availability, wide use of fertilizers and improved seed had a positive effect on the crop. Production of rainfed wheat, a minor crop in this region is expected to be 9 000 tonnes, slightly up from the previous year. In Nangarhar, poppy production increased significantly during 1998, mainly at the expense of the area sown to wheat.

Prospects for summer crops of maize, mung beans and cotton in all three provinces of East Region are favourable, with good water availability from higher than average snow accumulations in the mountains above the fields and high water levels in the Laghman and Kunar rivers and in other local streams.

South Region

The main negative factors affecting irrigated wheat crops in the provinces of Ghazni, Paktia, Paktika were high infestation with grass weeds and broad-leaved weeds, winter kill of wheat and widespread incidence of Yellow Rust on local varieties. Positive factors included the improved availability of water due to heavy snowfalls, well-distributed rainfall and better access to improved seed and fertilizers.

The winter of 1997/98 was reported to be one of the harshest for 40 years in this region. In Ghazni, 187 cm of snow fell and temperatures dropped to -22 degrees Celsius in January, with lowest temperatures in February and March of -19 degrees and -13 degrees Celsius, respectively. These low temperatures decimated some winter wheat crops and the continued cold conditions postponed the planting of spring wheat for about two weeks until the first week of April. Rainfall in Ghazni was well up to average at 180 mm for the period from October to 20 May. Significant hail damage to irrigated wheat crops was reported to have occurred in Khost District, but the Mission did not visit this area. Most of South Region produces only a single crop each year, due to the short growing season. Overall, wheat production is expected to be at the same level as last year.

Southwest Region

Resulting from the heavy overwinter snowfalls and above-normal rainfall, there is ample irrigation water in the dry provinces of Nimroz, Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan. Some flood damage to irrigation structures and to crops at growing stage occurred in all provinces of the region. High water levels in the three main rivers (Helmand, Arghandab and Tarnak) damaged irrigation intakes and caused siltation in some fields. However, the improved water availability benefited farmers in areas which would, in this 90 percent desert area, normally suffer from water deficiency.

Production of irrigated wheat is forecast at 459 000 tonnes, a slight increase from last yearís production of 457 000 tonnes. Yields are expected to be reduced by about 5 percent to 1.7 tonnes/hectare. Rainfed wheat production is expected to increase by 12.5 percent to 81 000 tonnes, due to an increase in yield to 0.9 tonnes/hectare.

Farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages, in terms of yield and quality, of planting improved varieties. However, due to the temporary withdrawal of the UN system from the southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Nimroz, crops of seed wheat, which are normally monitored on a regular basis by national FAO staff, cannot be monitored properly and the new crops cannot be declared officially as "Quality Declared Seed" for the 1998/99 season. Seed producing farmers are also deprived of the higher prices obtainable from the very successful FAO/WFP/UNDP "Food For Seed" Scheme, whereby each unit of seed wheat is exchanged for 1.25 units of food wheat. This situation will soon be resolved and it is hoped that up to 1 500 tonnes of seed may be retrieved for sale to farmers in the coming season. Poppy cultivation continued to increase, supplanting wheat on some irrigated land.



5.1 Cereal supply/demand balance

The Missionís forecasts of the cereal supply/demand balance and respective import requirements for 1998/99 are summarized in Table 2. Food consumption requirements are based on a mid-1998/99 marketing year (December 1998) population of 20.5 million, using an annual growth rate of 3.4 percent from the UN-agreed population of 19.5 million at July 1997. Cereal per caput consumption in 1998/99 is estimated at 160 kg, similar to last year, which led to forecast imports close to their actual level. In practice, the high figure of 160 kg of cereals per person is considered realistic in view of the known heavy consumption of bread and rice.

Cereals for animal feed are at low levels in Afghanistan comprising most of the barley and more than half of maize production (both are minor cereals). Livestock numbers are still recovering and the amount of feedgrain utilized is still below levels of the 1970s. Seed requirements have been estimated from the areas planted, using the high seed rates commonly practised by farmers in Afghanistan. Post harvest grain losses are assumed at 10 percent for wheat, maize and barley, and 7 percent for the more valuable rice.

Table 2 - Afghanistan - Forecast Cereal Balance Sheet, July/June, 1998/99 ('000 tonnes).

Wheat  Rice (milled)  Maize  Barley  Total
Domestic Availability  3 014  310  330  240  3 894
Opening Stock  180  10  190
Production  2 834  300  330  240  3 704
Total Utilization  3 694  370  330  240  4 634
Food Use  2 750  280  100  10  3 140
Feed  190  190  380
Seed and Waste  560  40  40  40  680
Exports  160  10  170
Closing Stocks  224  40  264
Import Requirements  680  60  0  0  740
Commercial  540  60  600
Food Aid  140  140

A tentative estimate of 170 000 tonnes of cereal exports has been built into the demand on domestic supplies. This represents the Missionís preliminary estimate of exports from the north and north east, resulting from surplus production which has no access to the heavily populated centre and east of the country. It assumes the existing military situation remains unchanged with front lines blocking north/south trade. The grain exported from northern provinces is likely to be sold relatively cheaply in grain deficit areas of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Allowing for some build-up of stocks, the total import requirement, including food aid, is 740 000 tonnes, some 16 percent of total utilization and 4 percent higher than last year.

Imports from Pakistan by private traders are currently coming in normally for wheat flour, rice and wheat, despite an export ban by Pakistan. Imports originating from the Islamic Republic of Iran are also considerable, while some CIS wheat also occasionally reaches Herat on an irregular basis. In total, private sector cereal imports average some 500 000-600 000 tonnes annually. Hence, unless trading arrangements change, the private sector appears to have the capacity to import commercially 600 000 tonnes.

5.2 Emergency Food Aid Requirements

Food Aid needs for 1998/1999

The largest part of the wheat consumed in the cities of Afghanistan is imported through commercial channels. An important part of the city population though, remains dependent on food aid to supplement their rations. This applies in particular to such groups as female headed households and internally displaced people among the vulnerable people, who do not have a sufficient income to pay for the wheat/bread at the high market price. During the past year, WFP has had large scale bakery projects in the major cities of Afghanistan mostly during the winter months, emergency distributions to returnees, IDPs, victims of natural disaster as well as institution feedings to be necessary in the coming year.

The overall requirements for food aid have been estimated at 140 000 tonnes for 1998. Over 105 000 tonnes of this quantity is to be provided by the WFP, with the balance to be derived by other means. An estimated 69 000 tonnes of the food aid supplied by WFP will be used for relief purposes, while 36 000 tonnes will go to rehabilitation projects:

Strategy  Allocation (MT)
Bakery  47 225
IDPs  5 925
Returnees Rehabilitation  7 200
Emergency  15 548
Institutional Feeding  4 637*
Food-for-training  4 425
Food-for-seed  2 715
Food-for-work  17 700
Total  105 375

Two special areas of concern exist for WFP in 1998: the Hazarajat and Badakhshan. The Hazarajat has been adversely affected by a combination of factors, including a Taliban blockade from the south and rampant insecurity/inaccessibility on the north. Due to the blockade, with the exception of some smuggling, no goods enter the region, nor do goods leave the region to traditional markets in the cities of Ghazni and Kabul. The two major mountain routes from the Northern city of Mazar-i-sharif to the Central Highlands are effectively also cut, as a result of continuing conflict there. This blockade, in combination with yield losses in 1997, brought about by early snow during the harvesting season, resulted in an acute food shortage in this chronically food deficit region. WFPís estimates of the population at risk of starvation are set at around 167 000 requiring about 7 500 tonnes of food to support the most needy.

The traditionally food deficient northeastern province of Badakhshan used to obtain its cereals from the neighbouring provinces of Kunduz and Takhar. In mid-1997, Kunduz was captured by the Taliban movement. Reports suggest that limited quantities of wheat and rice are still entering Badakhshan from Kunduz and Takhar, but this supply route is highly insecure during summer and blocked during the long winter period. This not only endangers the food supply for the inhabitants of Badakhshan, but also makes it impossible for the Badakhshan men to pursue their usual seasonal migration to these two provinces. Here they assist in the harvesting, which allows them to earn the necessary income to pay for the additional food for their families.

In general WFP food aid beneficiaries (over 1.1 million) consist of the most vulnerable people in rural and urban areas in Afghanistan. WFPís relief operations are targeting:

Food Aid Logistics

Since Afghanistan is a landlocked country immersed in civil strife, delivery of food aid is a complex challenge. For one thing, the span of time from a pledge to the actual delivery of food aid into Afghanistan can stretch over many months. Moreover, due to the combined ravages of war, underdevelopment, terrain, and climate, poor infrastructure, and inaccessibility by overland routes from the south or high cost of transport to areas in the north - such as Mazar-e-Sharif and Badakhshan. In addition, the distances between ports and destinations are vast. Moreover, parts of north and north-central Afghanistan are just not accessible by road from outside in winter, including Badakhshan and Bamyan. Finally, intermittent insecurity and blockades can also interrupt supply lines, as has been the case in the Hazarajat for one full year (1997-1998).

WFP delivers food aid to Afghanistan through both southern and northern routes. Two-thirds of the food aid comes through the southern route via Port Qasim in Karachi, Pakistan; it is then transported overland to Peshawar or Quetta. This southern route then supplies the Jalalabad (East), Kabul (Central), Kandahar (Southwest), and sometimes Herat (West) regions using both UN and commercial convoys. (see Table 3 on Food Aid Logistics below)

Table 3: Food Aid Logistics

Port of dispatch  Transitory route  Final destination regions/areas
Karachi  Peshawar, Kabul Peshawar, Jalalabad Quetta, Kandahar Quetta, Kandahar  Central region East & South region Southwest region West region & Ghor province
Baltic Ports  Hairaton, Mazar-e-Sharif, Yakawlang Osh, Ishkashem, Faizabad Torghundi  North region & Hazarajat Badakhshan province West region & Ghor province

On the northern route, vessels dock at the Baltic ports of Riga, Tallin and Ventspils, from where some of the food is transported by rail over 4 500 kilometres through the former USSR to three locations. Part goes to Kushka in Turkmenistan, and is then forwarded to Torgundi in the Herat (West plus Ghor province) region. Another part of the northern pipeline goes to Termez in Uzbekistan when it is forwarded across the border to Hairatan for use in northern Afghanistan including Mazar-i-Sharif, Jawzjan (North and part of Northeast region), Bamyan (East-Central), etc. Finally, the third segment of the northern pipeline transits Osh, Kyrgystan to supply Faizabad in remote Badakhshan province (part of Northeast region).

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required. 
Abdur Rashid 
Chief, GIEWS, FAO Chief, GIEWS, FAO 
Telex 610181 FAO I 
Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495 
Judy Cheng-Hopkins 
Regional Director, OAC, WFP 
Telex: 626675 WFP 1 
Fax: 0039-06-6513-2863 
E-Mail: Judy.Cheng-Hopkins @WFP.ORG
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