FAO GLOBAL INFORMATION AND EARLY WARNING SYSTEM ON FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME

SPECIAL REPORT: FAO/WFP CROP AND FOOD SUPPLY ASSESSMENT MISSION TO AFGHANISTAN

7 July 1999

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1. OVERVIEW

Following similar Missions in 1997 and 1998, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, supported by UNDP, was fielded to Afghanistan from 22 May-23 June 1999 to estimate the 1999 cereal harvest and cereal import requirement, including food aid needs, for 1999/2000. The Mission visited Kabul and Herat regions, while WFP-funded six survey teams of national agronomists covered most of the accessible regions of the country, including Faizabad, Jalalabad, Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif. The Mission benefited from discussions with UN agencies, multilateral and bilateral donors, Afghan authorities, ICRC and many NGOs. Available relevant reports and documents were reviewed. Area and yield estimates for various crops in different regions were based on field visits, data generated by survey teams, and discussions with farmers and UN and NGO personnel knowledgeable about particular regions and areas.

Relative peace in most parts of Afghanistan, in recent years, has bolstered agricultural activities and local trade with increased private sector participation. However, the country's cereal production suffered a setback in 1999, compared to the very strong recovery in 1998, due to shortage of irrigation water as a result of the mildest winter in 40 years with very low snowfall, late and erratic spring rains and high incidence of yellow rust and sunnpest that damaged crops in the north and west of the country. In addition, there is a trend in gradually diverting irrigated wheat land to such cash crops as onion, potato, poppy, and tree crops, particularly almonds and apricots.

Given these factors, the Mission has estimated the 1999 total cereal production at 3.24 million tonnes, about 16 percent below last year's bumper output of 3.85 million tonnes. As a result, the cereal import requirement in the1999/2000 marketing year (July/June) is estimated at a record 1.1 million tonnes, of which more than 95 percent is wheat. Commercial cereal imports are estimated at about 800 000 tonnes, about one-third higher than last year's estimates of 600 000 tonnes, due to increased private sector activity, cash crop production and active cross-border trade. This leaves a deficit of 323 000 tonnes to be covered by emergency and programme food aid. Emergency food aid in the pipeline (including food-for-work and food-for-seed) amounts to 97 000 tonnes, leaving uncovered 226 000 tonnes.

Despite stable prices and well stocked food shops, access to food is severely constrained by a scarcity of income-generating activities and lack of employment opportunities outside agriculture. Recovery in agriculture is hampered by damaged irrigation infrastructure and land mines. Of immediate concern are returnees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) who are in need of urgent assistance.

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2. SOCIO-ECONOMIC SETTING 1/

1 /The contents of this section are based on a variety of sources including "Afghan Outlook", Office of the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan, Islamabad, April 1999; "Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade Relations", Draft, by Zareen F. Nagri; World Bank, Islamabad; and "Situational Analysis of Afghanistan", Action Aid, Islamabad, August 1998.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country of 652 000 square km. It is strategically located, being bounded by the Central Asian Plains and mountains of the CIS countries (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan) to the north, China to the north-east, Pakistan to the east and south, and the Islamic Republic of Iran to the west. Only about 12 percent of the country's total land is arable, with 3 percent under forest cover, about 46 percent under permanent pastures, and the rest (39 percent) being mountains.

Nearly two decades of civil strife has virtually destroyed the industrial and export sectors and severely damaged agricultural infrastructure. Despite difficulties arising from localised conflicts and blockades, domestic trade is operational throughout the country. Cross-border trade with neighbouring countries, particularly with Turkmenistan in the north, the Islamic Republic of Iran in the west and Pakistan in the east and south has been quite brisk.

Agriculture has registered an appreciable recovery due to relative peace in most parts of the country, and is the main source of national output, employment and incomes. Some 85 percent of the country's estimated 21 million people depend on agriculture for their livelihood. About half of the cultivable area is irrigated, while the other half is arid or rainfed. Wheat is the main food crop, accounting for more than three quarters of food grain production. Other important food crops include rice, maize and barley. Potatoes and various fruit crops are also produced, both for domestic consumption and as cash crops. Afghan dried fruit (mainly almonds and apricots) accounted for 60 percent of the world market in 1982, but declined to around 16 percent in 1990; it is much lower now, but still constitutes an important export item.

At the peak of the civil strife in the early 1990s, an estimated 30 percent of the population fled the country or became internally displaced people (IDP). About half of the refugees have returned. Many internally displaced people have also returned to their homes. Still, some three million or so remain outside and there are many IDPs. With stability, improved security and progress in landmine-clearing, more refugees are expected to return to the country and more IDPs to their homes. The Mission was informed that under an agreement, some 3 000 refugees are expected to return to Afghanistan from the Islamic Republic of Iran every week in the coming months.

The international community has been active in Afghanistan, not only in trying to broker a peace settlement, but also in relief, rehabilitation, de-mining and development, particularly in the agricultural sector. Following the presentation of a draft strategy for National Agricultural Development at the World Food Summit in November 1996, an international forum on Assistance to Afghanistan was held in Ashgabat in January 1997, which was followed by a UN Consolidated Appeal for Assistance. FAO and WFP have been implementing several projects in the agricultural sector. Other UN agencies and several international NGOs are also active in economic and social fields.

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3. FOOD PRODUCTION IN 1998/1999

3.1 Rainfall

Afghanistan depends to a large extent on melting snows to provide irrigation water. The 1998/99 winter was one of the mildest on record, with snowfall in Kabul being the lowest for forty years. Spring rains were erratic with rainfall of only 120 mm recorded in Kabul for the year to May, 1999. In Kuskh District north of Herat, rainfall was 447 mm from January to March, inclusive, but rainfall in April and May was lower than normal at 30 mm. In Herat, rainfall was 253 mm from January to May, but only 15 mm fell in April and May. As a result, crop growth was retarded and forage died off one month earlier than normal. This pattern was reported from all over the country, with the result that rainfed wheat yields were much reduced, and in many cases, particularly in the Central and South Regions and in parts of the plains areas of North Region, rainfed wheat failed completely.

3.2 Area Planted

The area planted to irrigated wheat was reduced by about 3 percent, mainly due to increased plantings of onion, potato, poppy, and to tree crops, especially almonds and apricots. Progress on de-mining in the Central Region is gradually releasing more land for normal agricultural and other usage. As a result of the good yields obtained from dryland wheat in 1998, dryland wheat plantings were significantly increased compared to 1998. However, the crop largely failed in Kabul, Logar, Wardak, Ghazni, Paktia, parts of Kandahar, Khost and in some plains of Balkh, with the result that the harvested area is expected to be reduced by 13 percent compared to 1998.
Shortages of irrigation water also caused a reduction in planted areas and yields of summer crops of maize, mung beans and rice. The rice area is estimated to be reduced by 22 percent and expected yield by 20 percent compared to last year. The maize area is also estimated to be down by 20 percent compared to 1998, with yields reduced by about 9 percent.

3.3 Agricultural Inputs

Seeds: The FAO Crops Project provided 4 109 tonnes of winter wheat seeds and a further 1 500 tonnes of summer crop seeds, mainly maize and rice. NGOs also provided considerable quantities of seed, while farmers in the eastern parts of the country imported improved seed from Pakistan.

However, the amount of improved seed produced each year is far below the national requirement. Many of the improved varieties introduced some years ago have lost their resistance to yellow rust, a major fungal disease. New, high yielding varieties, which are resistant to this disease, and others, need to be introduced every season and this requires long term commitment and investment. The FAO/WFP Food for Seed Programme is a cost effective means of preventing improved seed from being consumed, thus preserving it for planting in the following years.

Fertilizers and Pesticides: Availability of fertilizers was reported to be good in most areas of the country and the mission saw good supplies in stores along the road south of Kabul and in Herat. A Pakistani trader in Peshawar reported that 70 000 tonnes of fertilizer have been imported into Afghanistan in 1999. Iranian urea was seen in stores in Herat, as well as supplies from Turkmenistan. However, sales of adulterated and low quality fertilizer were reported to be continuing, especially in the east of the country.

Recommended chemical seed dressings are used by very few farmers, with the result that seed-borne diseases such as smut are very common. Weed infestation, particularly of grass weeds such as wild oats, wild rye and reed were widely seen in irrigated crops of wheat, causing considerable yield loss. Lack of labour was cited as a reason for the presence of weeds.

Tractors and Oxen: Many farmers now use tractors for cultivation as they do not have sufficient land to maintain a pair of oxen. Tractors owned by larger landowners are widely available for rent, but farmers find it difficult to pay the charges in the absence of credit facilities. Oxen are, however, still used to some extent.

Irrigation: The effect of the lowest snowfall for many years, combined with much reduced spring rains, meant that water for canal irrigation was reduced considerably. Wells, which are increasingly becoming more important for irrigation, had generally sufficient water for the main irrigated wheat crop, but water tables were reported to be dropping all over the country. Although irrigation infrastructure has been under repair for some time, it generally remains in poor condition. Also, earthquakes in Wardak and Takhar have caused damage to local irrigation systems. Farmers in Wardak and Paktia are investing in well digging and in small pumps to irrigate their fields, as wells are not so much affected, as yet, by poor precipitation. However, if the dry winter of 1998/99 is repeated, ground water levels will drop further and the amount of water available from wells will be greatly reduced.

Much of the available irrigation water is wasted through leakage, as a result of poor irrigation practices such as inadequate levelling. Improvements have been made in many of the more accessible parts of the country by community based projects using the advice of professional irrigation engineers. Even then, much remains to be done, especially in the more remote areas, away from the main roads.

Irrigation facilities need constant attention if they are to work properly and this requires constant investment in maintenance. The international community could increase local self-sufficiency by supporting community based irrigation improvement projects. These projects should also provide extension advice and practical demonstrations on the economical and effective use of irrigation water.

3.4 Cereal Yields and Production

Wheat: As a result of good crops in the Eastern, Western and South-Western Regions, overall irrigated wheat yields are expected to be similar to those of the previous year at 1.66 tonnes per hectare, giving a production of 1.99 million tonnes, compared to 2.02 million tonnes in 1998. Yields were significantly higher in Eastern and South-Western Regions due to sufficient water availability and reduced incidence of yellow rust compared to last year. In the Central, Northern and Southern Regions, reduced availability of irrigation water following the dry and mild winter, has reduced yields and production of irrigated wheat by an estimated 9 percent compared to the previous year.

Low rainfall has caused the failure of the rainfed wheat crop in the Eastern and Southern regions, while reduced rainfall, yellow rust and sunnpest damage have reduced potential yields in the northern region. The Mission observed the remains of failed rainfed wheat crops being utilized by Kuchi nomads in Wardak Province. Nationally, production of rainfed wheat is estimated at 512 000 tonnes, a reduction of 37 percent compared to last year's total of 814 000 tonnes. While most irrigated crops had sufficient water, summer crops are expected to be adversely affected by water scarcity.

Yellow rust is a major problem in the Northern Region, where most crops are grown from unimproved seed varieties which are highly susceptible to this disease. The high incidence of yellow rust in the Northern Region was facilitated by cold, humid conditions in February and March. The dry conditions in the Eastern Region gave rise to healthy crops which, with adequate irrigation water, produced higher than average yields. However, many irrigated wheat crops in Kabul and Wardak provinces were observed to be suffering from water stress in the critical grain filling stage due to water scarcity, and yields are expected to be reduced by some 6 percent compared to last year.

Maize: Due to scarcity of irrigation water, maize plantings are estimated to have been reduced by 22 percent and yield by 10 percent compared to last year.

Rice: Rice was being planted in Herat Province and in the Central Region during the Mission's visit. The local authorities in Helmand Province have advised farmers not to grow summer crops, in view of low water levels in reservoirs. Rice plantings are expected to decline by 22 percent, with production reduced by 38 percent compared to 1998.

Barley: The Mission estimates a reduction of 10 percent in barley production, due to water shortages in Bamyan Province and to local disturbances there, which curtailed planting.

The mission estimates of cereal production by region are shown in Table 1.

Table 1 - Afghanistan: Area, Yield and Production of Cereals by Region, 1998 and 1999

REGION
1999
1998
Area
('000 ha)
Yield
(tonnes/ha)
Production
('000 tonnes)
Area
('000 ha)
Yield
(tonnes/ha)
Production
('000 tonnes)
Wheat- irrigated           
Central
70
1.6
112
69
1.7
117
North-East
200
1.6
320
200
1.6
320
East
72
2.1
151
75
1.7
128
South
92
1.4
129
95
1.5
143
South-West
260
1.9
494
270
1.7
459
West
184
1.9
350
190
1.9
361
North
274
1.4
384
280
1.5
420
East-Central
44
1.1
48
55
1.3
72
TOTAL
1 196
1.66
1 988
1 234
1.62
2 020
Wheat - rainfed
Central
5
0.2
1
20
0.9
18
North-East
260
0.5
130
260
0.7
182
East
5
0.4
2
10
0.9
9
South
10
0.4
4
42
0.8
34
South-West
66
0.5
33
90
0.9
81
West
220
0.8.
176
230
1
230
North
225
0.7
158
250
0.9
225
East-Central
40
0.2
8
50
0.7
35
TOTAL
831
0.62
512
952
0.86
814
ALL WHEAT 2 027 1.23 2 500 2 186   2 834
Secondary crops           
Rice 140 2.0 280 180 2.5 450
Maize 160 1.5 240 200 1.65 330
Barley (for Grain) 180 1.2 216 200 1.2 240
TOTAL 480   736 580   1 020
TOTAL CEREALS 2 507   3 236 2 766   3 854

 

Undisplayed Graphic

3.5 Other Crops

Fruits and Vegetables: The major fruit crops, in order of importance, are grapes, almonds, apricots, apples and pomegranates. Planting of almonds and apricots is gradually increasing year by year and in the process taking over more irrigated land. Many farmers were reported to be uprooting apple orchards due to poor markets for the crop. Apricots were being planted in their place as there is a good market for dried apricots. The production of melons and watermelons is also increasing. The main vegetable crops are onion, potato and tomato, all of which are increasing in importance as cash crops.

Poppy: There has been a significant increase in poppy area in 1999 from the estimated 57 000 ha in 1997. Areas such as Badghis and Balkh, where poppy had not been grown in the past, are now producing this crop on an experimental basis. Poppy cultivation has now also spread to certain areas of Farah, where there is adequate irrigation water from wells. As a result, there has been a decrease in wheat area. Poppy is one of the most labour intensive crops. The United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) estimates the labour requirement at 350 person days per hectare, 200 of which are for harvesting the latex. Labour rates for poppy harvesting are considerably higher than for wheat harvesting and this has led to shortages of labour for wheat harvesting in the south and south west of the country. Some shedding losses, due to late harvesting, were reported from the important wheat growing province of Helmand. The support of the intrnational community is needed to arrest the expnasion of poppy cultivation at the expense of wheat production, through changes in incentives to farmers.

Potatoes: Planting of the important potato crop in Bamyan was disrupted during April 1999, due to civil disturbances. This will have a serious effect on the food supplies of people in this very poor region. Some potato crops in the Kabul area were seen by the mission to be suffering from water stress at an early growth stage. It is likely that there will not be sufficient irrigation water for all potato crops, as river levels are very low. Farm incomes and food availability will therefore be reduced.

Pulses: Mung beans are a major summer crop in the Eastern and Central Regions. The drought has deprived large areas of sufficient soil moisture for these crops to be planted this year and as a result, production is expected to decrease considerably compared to last summer.

3.6 Pastures and Livestock

There are an estimated 2.4 million cattle, 13.4 million sheep, 5.2 million goats, 73 000 horses, 607 000 donkeys and 208 000 camels in Afghanistan. In view of the harsh and arid climate with a relatively short growing season, availability of sufficient fodder for such a large livestock population is a major concern. This year, with rainfall at much less than normal levels in many parts of the country, pasture and fodder availability is a bigger problem than ever. The failure of rainfed wheat crops will reduce the availability of straw, a major source of coarse fodder for livestock. Due to shortages of irrigation water during the summer, yields of clover and alfalfa grown under irrigation are expected to be reduced. Livestock numbers have recovered to pre-war levels in most areas, so grazing pressure is becoming very heavy, especially at a time of poor pasture and forage, following poor snowfalls and low rainfall in the spring.

Livestock is the main source of cash income for many farmers in Afghanistan. The shortage of fodder will adversely affect livestock performance and farm incomes, especially in the higher areas such as Bamyan and Ghor Provinces. Given the poor forage situation, livestock seldom get enough fodder, with protein being particularly limiting. As a result, fertility is low and mortality of young stock is high. This year, forage growth has stopped a month earlier than usual in the Western Region, due to abnormally low rainfall in April and May. The supply of forage for the harsh winter will therefore be much below normal in these areas. The forage shortage will also have the effect of reducing livestock prices, making it harder for farmers who normally produce less than their full cereal requirement, to purchase grain in the market.

 

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4. SITUATION BY REGION

4.1 North-East (Kunduz, Takhar, Badakhshan, Baghlan)

Lower than usual snowfalls in these provinces reduced stream flows. As a result, farmers, particularly those in the lower reaches of irrigation schemes, suffered severe water shortages. Upland farmers, however, produced adequate crops through damming streams. The effect of water scarcity will be strongly felt by rice farmers in Baghlan Province, a major rice producing area, where about 37 percent of the cultivable land is irrigated. Yields of irrigated wheat were highly variable in Baghlan, ranging from 0.8 tonnes/ha to over 3.5 tonnes/ha.

Aggregate production of irrigated wheat is expected to be similar to that of last year at 320 000 tonnes. Production in Badakhshan is reported to be about 20 percent higher than last year, due to lower levels of yellow rust infection, while local insecurity in parts of Kunduz and Takhar disrupted some farming activities. Increases in the area planted to poppy were reported from Badakhshan, with a consequent reduction in the area of irrigated wheat.

Security constraints prevented the distribution of 90 tonnes of improved wheat seed in Takhar. An earthquake damaged some farms in Takhar, forcing farmers whose top soil had disappeared in landslides to plant in subsoil, with predictably low yields.

4.2 North (Balkh, Samangan, Jaozjan, Faryab)

There was great variability in yield throughout these four provinces, with rainfed wheat in plains being badly affected by moisture stress, while other crops on the higher slopes and well irrigated, yielded well. Rainfed wheat is a particularly important crop in Balkh, Faryab and Samangan, taking 95 percent, 80 percent and 86 percent of the cultivable land, respectively. About half the cultivable land in Jaozjan is irrigated.

Poor rainfall at the start of the winter season and heavy rain at the end of that season delayed planting of rainfed wheat. This was followed by heavy rains in April, at the end of the winter season, and this encouraged the development of yellow rust (Puccinia striiformis), on both rainfed and irrigated wheat. There was no rain in many parts of North Region during May, with the result that rainfed crops suffered water stress in the grain filling stage. Considerable areas of rainfed wheat crops in parts of Balkh, Saripul and Faryab were reported to be not worth harvesting. In Shulgara District, rainfed wheat production was reported to be reduced by 70 percent compared to last year, due to poor rainfall and yellow rust infestation. Yields of rainfed wheat in Faryab varied from zero to 1.7 tonnes/ha, while both irrigated and rainfed wheat yields in Saripul were extremely low, with few farmers producing more than enough food for six months.

The proportion of rust resistant wheat crops was small. It is therefore essential that more resources be put into increasing the supply of rust resistant, high yielding wheat varieties. Production of irrigated wheat fell by about 9 percent to 384 000 tonnes, while rainfed wheat production is expected to decline by about 30 percent to 158 000 tonnes. Harvested area of rainfed wheat is expected to be reduced by 10 percent due to drought in the plains and insecurity in parts of Saripul at the beginning of the season which prevented some farmers from sowing rainfed wheat.

There has been an increase in poppy cultivation in Balkh, with a consequent reduction in the area of irrigated wheat.

4.3 West (Herat, Farah, Badghis)

Irrigated wheat crops were generally good in the Western Region, due to adequate water and the absence of yellow rust which had caused severe crop damage in 1998. Rainfed wheat crops were affected by sunnpest, but damage by this pest in Badghis was less than expected.

Some thousands of IDPs returned from refugee camps outside Herat to their farms in Badghis Province. They were assisted to resume farming by donations of seed and tools, and food-for-work by ICRC. This increased the land planted to wheat in Badghis Province compared to last year. Rainfd wheat yields throughout the region but especially in Herat are expected to be reduced by the dry weather in April and May, by occasional outbreaks of yellow rust and by sunnpest infestation.

Farmers reported that irrigated crops in the Herat region were generally good this year, as water availability was sufficient for first crops. However, second crops, rice in particular, will suffer water shortages as the level of the Herat River is much lower than at the same period last year. Areas of rainfed wheat were reduced in Herat with a corresponding increase in the production of white cumin.

In Farah Province, where much of irrigation water comes from wells, high water tables following good rains in 1998 assured sufficient irrigation water for good crop yields. However, poppy growing increased considerably, reducing the wheat area. In addition, there was a shortage of labour for weeding and threshing of wheat due to the more lucrative poppy harvesting. Rainfed wheat production in Badghis is estimated to be up 50 percent on 1998 due to lower than expected sunnpest damage and relatively good rains.

Availability of livestock fodder will be much reduced in 1999 due to the drying out of natural vegetation one month early, due to drought conditions in April and May.

4.4 East Central (Ghor/Bamyan)

Bamyan and Ghor are probably the poorest provinces in Afghanistan. The short agricultural season and the shortage of good irrigable land mean that this region has always been a deficit area for cereals. Trading in livestock, potatoes and building poles with other regions in the past made up for the shortfalls in grain production. This year, the situation in Bamyan is exacerbated by military action, displacement of a large number of people from their homes around Bamyan and Yakowlang, disruption of the planting of the important potato crop in April and low rainfall.

Water levels in the irrigation canals were reported to be only half or even one third of normal levels. Rainfall was reported to be much lower than usual, with dry ground conditions due to reduced snowfalls during the 1998/99 winter. Production of irrigated wheat is expected to be reduced by 37 percent compared to last year's total of 72 000 tonnes, while rainfed wheat production is estimated at only 8 000 tonnes, less than a quarter of the previous year's level of 35 000 tonnes.

Civil strife during April disrupted planting of the main potato crop and this will have serious consequences for many households which depend on this crop for food and cash. Massive displacement of people was reported with obvious reductions in planted areas of crops. Northern areas of Bamyan were worst affected by fighting and displacement, with an estimated 5 000 farm families reported to have lost all crops in the Bamyan town area. A further complication in 1999 has been the return to the province of Kuchi nomads claiming land rights dating back twenty years. This has led to many families leaving Bamyan Province to seek security in Quetta.

Kuchi livestock were reported to be grazing on rainfed wheat crops. Shortages of fodder and straw will exert downward pressure on livestock prices, reducing the purchasing power of the people for grain.

4.5 Central (Kabul, Parwan, Kapisa, Wardak, Logar)

Low water availability following very low snowfalls during winter reduced yields of irrigated wheat and other crops, especially in the lower reaches of poorly-maintained irrigation schemes. Weed growth in irrigated wheat was widely seen and lack of labour was cited as the reason for poor weed control. Production of irrigated wheat is estimated at 112 000 tonnes, a reduction of about 4 percent compared to last year. Rainfed wheat crops were devastated by drought throughout the Central Region. Although rainfed wheat is much less important than irrigated wheat, accounting for less than seven percent of cultivable land in the Central Region, the loss of seed and straw and the lost investment in tractor cultivation will be serious for the farmers affected. Production of rainfed wheat is estimated to have declined from 18 000 tonnes in 1998 to 1 000 tonnes this year. Low water availability will also reduce local rice production in Wardak.

The food situation in the Shamali Valley in Parwan and Kapisa Provinces, was reported to be serious. This area used to be a major supplier of grapes and other fruit to the Kabul market, but is now cut off by the front line. Lack of pesticides and fungicides has resulted in heavy losses of the main grape crop, while the prices of grapes and other fruits have dropped due to lack access to the traditional markets in Kabul and Pakistan. Wheat production was never sufficient here and supplies have to be imported from the Northern provinces of Kunduz and Takhar. High transport costs result in very high prices for wheat flour.

Livestock prices in the Shamali Valley are extremely low due to lack of effective demand. Some rehabilitation work has been done on the main irrigation works by ICRC and this has alleviated the situation somewhat. Farmers are reported to have increased maize production as the crop matures quicker than wheat, but the maize crop was reported to be infested with pests, probably stalk borers, for which no pesticides were available.

4.6 East (Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar)

Irrigated wheat crops were very good in Eastern Region, due to adequate water availability for this early harvested crop. However, farmers whose crops had been damaged by yellow rust in 1998 could not obtain enough seed of resistant varieties and had to plant the old, susceptible varieties. It was fortunate for them that conditions were not conducive to the development and spread of the disease in 1999.

As a result, irrigated wheat production is estimated to be 18 percent up on year's, at 151 000 tonnes, due mainly to a yield increase of about 23 percent. Cropped areas of winter wheat are estimated at 72 000 ha in 1999, compared to 75 000 ha in the previous year. This reduction in area is due to increasing poppy production, especially in Nangarhar and Kunar Provinces and to production of other cash crops such as vegetables. However, in Kunar and Nangarhar especially, summer crops of rice, maize and mung beans were expected to be much reduced due to low water availability late in the season.

4.7 South (Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Khost)

Reduced water availability in irrigation schemes cut estimated production of irrigated wheat from 143 000 tonnes in 1998 to 129 000 tonnes in 1999, a decrease of almost 10 percent. Rainfed wheat was badly affected by drought; production is expected to fall drastically, from 34 000 tonnes in 1998 to an estimated 4 000 tonnes this year. Rainfed wheat normally accounts for only a small proportion of the total cultivable land in South Region, varying from zero in Paktia Province to 5 percent in Ghazni. Due to rain failure, most farmers are not expected to recover their seed.

Orchard crops are reported to have done well to date, but water shortages are bound to affect yields later in the season.

4.8 South-West (Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, Nimroz, Uruzgan)

Irrigated wheat crops in the South-Western Region had generally sufficient water and the disease incidence was less than last year. Production of irrigated wheat is estimated to have increased by about 8 percent to 494 000 tonnes, while yields are estimated to have increased to 1.9 tonnes/ha compared to 1.7 tonnes/ha last year. However, rainfed wheat yield is estimated at 55 percent of last year's. Production is expected to decline by about 59 percent, to 33 000 tonnes.

Rainfed wheat crops were devastated by drought, with, for example, one large farmer in Kandahar losing the total crop from 38 tonnes of planted seed. Increased poppy production and other cash crops on irrigated land in the large irrigation schemes in Helmand Province and elsewhere reduced planted area for irrigated wheat by an estimated 10 000 ha or about 3 percent. However, the irrigation infrastructure, already inefficient from long years of no maintenance, suffered severe flood damage in 1998 and it has not been repaired. Salination of land through unsatisfactory drainage is also a major cause of loss of potential cropped area and of yield.

The labour intensive work of harvesting poppy has sharply reduced the availability of labour for harvesting wheat and, as a result, shedding losses from late harvesting of wheat depressed yields in some areas.

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5. CEREAL SUPPLY/DEMAND SITUATION, 1999/2000

With the increase in production of cash crops and an active cross-border trade, it is assumed that commercial imports of cereals will further increase in 1999/2000.

The purchasing power of a majority of Afghans, however, remains extremely limited due to lack of income-earning opportunities outside agriculture and the largely subsistence nature of the agriculture itself. The unmet food deficit is likely to further deteriorate the nutritonal situation of the population.

The cereal balance shown in Table 2 is based on the following assumptions:

1 Obtained by applying an annual population growth rate of 3.4 percent on the December 1998 population of 20.5 million based on the UN-agreed July 1997 population of 19.5 million.
2 Wheat provides the bulk of calorie intake in Afghanistan. Often bread and yoghurt alone constitute a full meal in rural areas.

Table 2 - Afghanistan: Cereal Balance Sheet, 1999/2000 (`000 tonnes)

 
Wheat
Rice-milled
Maize
Barley
Total
Domestic availability
2 500
280
240
216
3 236
Stock drawdown
0
0
0
0
0
Domestic production
2 500
280
240
216
3 236
Total utilisation
3 578
329
240
216
4 363
Food use
3 053
290
40
10
3 393
Animal feed
-
-
169
168
337
Seed
275
19
7
16
317
Losses
250
20
24
22
316
Import requirement
1 078
49
-
-
1 127
Commercial import capacity
755
49
-
-
804
Food aid (planned)
97
-
-
-
97
Uncovered deficit
226
-
-
-
226

An export of 170 000 tonnes of wheat and rice from northern provinces was built into the balance for 1998/99, but with borders with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan virtually closed and also because production is reduced, exports of cereals are likely to be minimal in 1999/2000, if any. No export of cereals has, therefore, been built into the 1999/2000 cereal balance sheet.

Considering the past decade, the import requirement for 1999/2000, at 1.127 million tonnes, is at a record level, slightly above the previous peak level of 1995/96 (1.098 million tonnes). Commercial import capacity is estimated at about 800 000 tonnes, while emergency food aid in the pipeline amounts to 97 000 tonnes, leaving an uncovered deficit of 226 000 tonnes to be met by emergency and programme food aid. The estimated commercial import capacity of 800 000 tonnes in the 1999/2000 marketing year is about one-third higher than last year's estimates of 600 000 tonnes due to increased private sector activity and cash crop production such as onion, potatoes, almonds and apricots, as well as a brisk cross-border trade, particularly with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan. While recognizing the obvious difficulties of delivering programme food aid to the country, the mission would like to warn that the deficit, if uncovered, will have serious food security implications for the poorer segments of the population. There are no studies to indicate the level of malnourishment in Afghanistan, but latest reports indicate that 60 percent of Kabul's population depend on foreign aid and that WFP's subsidized bakeries feed more than 400 000 people in Kabul and Jalalabad alone. In view of this, an increase in emergency food aid to the country may be considered.

Undisplayed Graphic

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6. FOOD ASSISTANCE REQUIREMENTS

6.1 Food Aid Needs for 1999/2000

In the first half of 1999, wheat is readily available in the local markets as commercial traders make up the deficit in local cereal production. However, for many Afghans access is restricted due to their lack of purchasing power due to endemic unemployment and underemployment. This problem appears to be increasing as many displaced people add to the supply of casual labor while few additional employment opportunities are created. Low purchasing power is the single most important impediment to food security.

In urban areas, typically the most important single determinant of a household's ability to meet the minimum income requirement per person per month is its male labor. If the major sources of household income are children's work or women's work at home, then these households are more likely to have per caput income below that necessary for minimum food expenditures. The same is true for males employed in government service, as daily wage labourers, and in petty trade. In rural areas, the landless, particularly in the highlands, are amongst those who have the most difficulty attaining minimum food needs.

In 1998, WFP Afghanistan assisted 1.13 million of the most vulnerable people. For 1999 and 2000 WFP plans to target 1.2 million and 1.1 million beneficiaries respectively through relief and rehabilitation assistance. Relief activities targeting vulnerable people are implemented through bakeries emergency operations, institutional feeding, repatriation, and IDP assistance. Rehabilitation assistance is channeled through food-for-work, food-for-seed, food-for-training, and food-for-education.

In 1998 more than 100 000 tonnes of food aid was provided to Afghanistan. WFP contributed over 90 percent of this amount. Total food aid requirements for 1999/2000 have been estimated at 323 000 tonnes. For 1999, WFP has planned 96 800 tonnes of food aid of which 81 600 tonnes has been allocated to relief activities and 15 200 tonnes to rehabilitation. WFP is proposing 109 350 of food aid for 2000, 85 850 tonnes for relief and 23 500 tonnes for rehabilitation.

Table 3 - Planned Food Aid by Year (tonnes)

Activity
1999
2000
Bakery
46 500
37 000
Emergency
15 300
30 100
Institutional
4 000
4 750
Repatriation feeding
12 800
11 000
IDPs
3 000
3 000
Food for Work
9 800
15 000
Food for Seed
5 000
6 000
Food for Training
400
Nil
Food for Education
Nil
2 500
Total
96 800
109 350

 

6.2 Emergency food aid requirements

Geographical areas currently in need of emergency food aid are the Central regions, Central Highlands and Northern areas.

Central Region

Access to the central region provinces of Parwan and Kapisa has been cut off by a Taliban imposed blockade since 1997. WFP international staff have been unable to visit the area since 1996. Given information from NGOs working in these provinces and agricultural indicators from neighbouring regions, indications are that the crop production for 1998 decreased significantly due to a lack of agricultural inputs, destruction of the irrigation system and rust infestation of wheat. In addition, market prices for cereals are reported to have increased by 100 percent compared with adjacent areas since the blockade was imposed. Given that cereal production is expected to decrease for 1999/2000, families dependent on purchasing their food will be unlikely to attain their minimum food needs.

Central Highlands

The Central Highlands is an area which suffers from a chronic food shortage due mainly to continued fighting between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance which hinders access to the area from northern cereal production areas. In addition, lack of purchasing power is a significant constraint. WFP initiated an emergency relief operation in the Central Highlands in late 1998 and continued through the months of May, June and July 1999. WFP provided 5 000 tonnes of food to support 192 000 vulnerable individuals in food insecure districts (Waras, Panjo, Behsud 1 and 2 and Shahristan).

Northern Regions

Data collected by the WFP Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping team found that the labour market in the main urban center of Mazar-e-Sharif has been saturated bring wages down and excluding potential labourers. Families depending on wage labour currently earn the equivalent of US$4.00 per month which does not cover their minimum food and non-food expenditures. These households were reported to be selling their assets to augment income. Overall, households in this category were found to be more vulnerable than female or child-headed households. Coupled with the significant reduction in crop production expected for the 1999/2000 harvest in rain-fed areas in the north, a serious food shortage situation may develop.

North East

Food insecurity in the province of Badakshan, a traditionally food deficient area controlled by the Northern Alliance, is expected to continue as supply routes are blocked in the winter by the road conditions and in the summer by insecurity. The limited supplies of wheat and rice entering the province may be expected to dwindle due to the reduced cereal crop. A WFP winter emergency operation took place in this area in January 1999. Assistance targeted 51 000 of the neediest people with a one-time distribution of 1 730 tonnes of wheat.

6.3 Food Aid Logistics

WFP delivers food aid to land-locked Afghanistan through both the southern and northern corridors. Use of dual corridors helps to circumvent access difficulties provoked by frequent border closures or internal security threats. Over 80 percent of WFP food aid arrives through the southern route. Container cargo arrives through Karachi Port and bulk cargo through Port Qasim. Commodities are then shipped overland by road to WFP transshipment bases in Pakistan at Quetta, 700 km, and Peshawar, 1 400 km for storage, milling, and re-forwarding to eastern and southern provinces in Afghanistan (Jalalabad, Kabul, Kandahar). Through the northern corridor cargo arrives from ports in the Baltic Sea (Riga, Tallin and Ventspils), and occasionally from the Black Sea. Commodities are then transported by rail over 4 500 km to WFP transshipment bases at Termez in Uzbekistan, Osh in Kirgistan, and Kushka in Turkmenistan for storage and re-forwarding to all northern and western provinces in Afghanistan (Mazar, Bamyan, Herat and Badakshan).

The unstable security situation and the difficult access to many areas, due to the poor infrastructure network, often results in the need for complex transshipments in-country and even the use, in some cases, of animal transport. For example, remote and inaccessible areas in Badakshan and Bamyan were included in WFP assistance during 1999. Transportation of food commodities to Badakshan involves a combination of truck and donkey transport and takes several days. Food commodities dispatched from the north to Bamyan have to pass through extremely difficult road conditions and at several points transshipment to smaller lorries may be required. The particular climatic conditions can also result in restricted access to some regions during winter, such as the Central Highlands, due to heavy snow falls and frequent landslides.

 

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
Telex 610181 FAO I
Fax: 0039-06-5705-4495
E-mail:GIEWS1@FAO.ORG

Ms. J. 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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