Reference Date: 03-July-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Wheat harvest in 2015 expected to be above previous two years
Wheat import requirements in 2015/16 forecast at levels similar to 2014/15
Inflation easing owing to lower energy costs
2015 wheat crop forecast at slightly above the last two years
Harvesting of 2015 winter grains, mainly wheat, started in May and will continue until the end of July, followed by harvesting of maize and spring wheat from August. On average, about 2.5 million hectares are cultivated with wheat annually and about 90 percent of the wheat crop is planted in the autumn months. Nearly 80 percent of wheat cultivation is rainfed.
The 2015 crop season progressed under mixed weather conditions. Timely and sufficient rains in autumn 2014 facilitated plantings. However, up to mid-February, snow cover reported in northern and eastern Afghanistan remained limited, increasing danger of freeze-kill and threatening irrigation water availability. Snow runoffs from the mountains normally provide over 80 percent of the irrigation water and precipitation later in the season mitigated the outcome.
Based on a joint pre-harvest assessment conducted by FEWSNet, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), WFP and FAO, the preliminary forecast for the 2015 wheat crop is put at a level slightly above the last two years. Improved seed availability, through private companies together with the provision of subsidized improved seeds to farmers by MAIL, assisted crop productivity. Nevertheless, the bulk of the farmers still rely on their own farm-saved seeds. Households with low purchasing power in parts are eligible for subsidies for improved seeds.
Elsewhere in the sector, the 2014 Opium Survey in Afghanistan reveals that in 2014 the total area under opium poppy cultivation (224 000 hectares) increased by 7 percent compared to the previous year, whereas potential opium production was estimated at 6 400 tonnes, an increase of 17 percent from its 2013 level (5 500 tonnes) and the second highest level since 1994. The increase in opium production in 2014 led to a 23 percent decrease in the average farm-gate price of dry opium in 2014, yet opium remained the most lucrative crop in the country: the ratio of gross income per hectare of wheat to opium poppy was 1:4 and the ratio of net income was 1:6.
Wheat import requirements in 2015/16 similar to previous year
Cereal import requirements (mainly wheat) in the current 2015/16 marketing year (July/June) are forecast at 2.1 million tonnes, 1.2 million less than in the previous year and about 30 percent above the five-year average. Even in years with above-average domestic production, Afghanistan imports wheat flour, reflecting lack of adequate domestic milling capacity and problems of cost effectiveness. The dominant suppliers of wheat flour are Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Imported wheat and wheat flour are often blended with domestic wheat to improve its protein content.
Levels of inflation easing
Despite a bumper harvest in 2012, 2013 and 2014, wheat and wheat flour prices in some provinces have been increasing since June 2012 compared to their pre-2012 levels. In June 2015, wheat grain and wheat flour prices remained stable in most markets with the exception of Herat where wheat grain price decreased by 6.6 percent, while wheat flour price increased by 4.5 percent. Regional markets, particularly for wheat flour, continue to be well-supplied. Large regional price differences persist: wheat grain is over 30 percent more expensive in Kandahar than in Herat.
Inflation rates have declined due mainly to easing energy costs. In May 2015, the CPI in Kabul was down almost 3 percent relative to the same period last year. The food component of the CPI decreased by 2 percent, while the non-food component decreased by 4 percent. Bread and cereals recorded a decrease of 5.4 percent compared to last year, while the largest increases were recorded by fresh and dried fruits, dairy and eggs (over 4 percent).
Stable food security situation overall, but concern remains in parts for low-income and displaced people
The overall food security situation has generally been stable owing to the above-average harvest in the last three years (2012-2014). However, fighting between the Government and insurgent forces resulted in further displacement. The latest available information from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicates that the total number of IDPs in the country is 702 000, with Helmand Province being the most affected.
The WFP emergency food assistance which reached over 900 000 beneficiaries in 2013 was replaced by a Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2016. The operation is expected to reach 3.7 million beneficiaries.