14 August 2003, Rome / Kabul
-- Afghanistan's cereal crop will be the largest
harvest on record but many households will continue to require
humanitarian assistance, according to a joint report released
today by two UN food agencies.
harvest of 5.37 million tonnes of cereals is expected due in
large part to good precipitation and better access to seeds and
fertilizers, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the
World Food Programme (WFP) said in their report, the result of a
joint mission to the country.
knew the harvest would be large this year but this breaks all
records," said Henri Josserand, head of FAO's
Global Early Warning System which forecasts harvests and
predicts where food may be scarce. "We are looking at a
crop that will be 50 percent larger than last year's,
thanks in part to FAO's work to improve conditions in rural
areas of the country."
to the report, the bumper crop is also the result of Afghan
farmers planting more wheat and using more fertilizer. The
overall area planted with rainfed wheat has increased by more
than 77 percent from the previous year.
successful locust control campaign in the north of the country
has also been beneficial.
This year's abundant
harvest means that Afghanistan's cereal import requirement
for the current marketing year (July 2003 - June 2004) will only
be about 400 000 tonnes, which is almost a quarter of last
year's import requirement. All import requirements are
expected to be covered commercially.
forecasted crop includes 4.36 million tonnes of wheat - a 62
percent increase in the country's staple crop from a year
ago, as well as 410 000 tonnes of barley, 310 000 tonnes of
maize and 291 000 tonnes of milled rice.
Market prices for wheat have fallen sharply in some
regions and may result in financial difficulties for farmers and
reductions in area planted next season.
addition, planned construction on the Salang tunnel will likely
hinder the transfer of wheat to the grain-poor south, causing
prices in northern Afghanistan to fall further.
Hunger lingers despite harvest
Despite an expected record harvest this
year, a considerable number of Afghans will continue to face
food shortages and will depend on humanitarian food assistance,
the agencies warned.
The agencies may
purchase food aid locally if sufficient surpluses are available.
Over two decades of civil strife and a
severe drought from 1999 to 2001 have devastated the country,
damaging the agricultural sector and leaving infrastructure
"The joint FAO/WFP
mission to the country shows that, despite better harvests, a
timely and effective food intervention to assist the poorest of
the population in helping them rebuild an asset base for their
livelihood is essential" said Susana Rico, WFP country
Afghanistan's poorest households will still need relief aid
in the coming year. These families have been worn down by years
of conflict and the improved economic and agricultural situation
will simply not filter down to them," she added.
A national risk and vulnerability
assessment (NRVA) is underway to determine exactly where and how
much food aid will be needed among the country's population
of over 22 million.
As of the end of June
2003, WFP had about 114,000 tonnes of cereal food aid in stock.
Chronic malnutrition and micronutrient
deficiency disorders continue to be a major problem in
Afghanistan; particularly hard hit are young children, women,
refugees and people living in remote mountain areas. Even with
record harvests, there will still be pockets of malnutrition in
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06570 56350
Public Information Officer, WFP