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Dry weather and poor irrigation reduce cereal output in Afghanistan

Breaking stones to make gabions for better irrigation in Afghanistan
FAO/18040/M. Griffin

After harvesting a bumper cereal crop in 1998, farmers in Afghanistan are facing a much less favourable situation in 1999/2000, according to a recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to the country. The Mission's findings indicate that dry spring weather following a mild winter with little snowfall has contributed to the decline in the country's cereal production. The 1999 cereal production is expected to be about 3.24 million tonnes, down more than 600 000 tonnes from the previous year's output.

A record cereal import requirement of over 1.1 million tonnes will be needed to meet domestic demand. Growth in the private sector economy, cash crop production and cross-border trade have allowed Afghanistan to increase its cereal import capacity by about one-third over last year to around 800 000 tonnes. Food aid will have to cover the deficit of 323 000 tonnes. So far, less than 100 000 tonnes of emergency food is in the pipeline to Afghanistan, leaving a shortfall of well over 200 000 tonnes.

The shortage of rainfall has placed an impossible burden on Afghanistan's irrigation facilities, which have been severely damaged by years of civil conflict. The country has recently enjoyed a period of relative peace, permitting some repairs to be made to the country's irrigation infrastucture. However, urgent assistance is still required to improve Afghani farmers' access to water. The Mission reports that the international community could contribute greatly to increasing local self-sufficiency in Afghanistan by supporting community-based irrigation improvement projects.

13 July 1999

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