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Country Briefs

  Afghanistan

Reference Date: 12-September-2016

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Despite dry spell in autumn, only slightly below‑average cereal crop harvested in 2016

  2. Cereal import requirements in 2016/17 forecast at levels similar to 2015/16

  3. Inflation increasing owing to currency depreciation

Despite dry spell in autumn, only slightly below‑average cereal crop harvested in 2016

Harvesting of the 2016 winter grains, mainly wheat, concluded in June. Final production estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) indicate that 4.55 million tonnes of wheat were harvested, only slightly below last year’s harvest and the five‑year average. Some 3.7 million tonnes were produced under irrigated conditions and 830 000 tonnes from rainfed areas. While total wheat cultivated area increased by 9.5 percent compared to the previous year to 2.3 million hectares, pests and wheat rust decreased the average yield to 1.98 tonnes per hectare, down 8 percent on last year.

A small maize crop is usually harvested in August, while the rice harvest starts in October. Vegetable production in the country improved in 2016 compared to the previous years but the lack of adequate capacity remains a constraint in marketing the production.

Seed availability for the 2016/17 planting season, starting in late September, is reported to be worse than in the past seasons. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and humanitarian agencies are looking for certified wheat seed for distribution. In the past, 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 farmers still rely on their own farm‑saved seeds. Households with low purchasing power in some areas are eligible for subsidies for improved seeds. Further support to the seed industry is crucial for the availability of certified wheat seed to farmers in the future.

Elsewhere in the sector, the 2015 Opium Survey in Afghanistan revealed that in 2015 the total area under opium poppy cultivation (183 000 hectares) decreased by 19 percent compared to the previous year, whereas potential opium production was estimated at 3 300 tonnes, a decrease of 48 percent from its 2014 level (6 400 tonnes).

Wheat import requirements in 2016/17 similar to previous year

Cereal import requirements (mainly wheat) in the current 2016/17 marketing year (July/June) are forecast at 2.7 million tonnes, about the same as in the previous year and slightly 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.

Wheat prices down, but levels of inflation increasing

In the last six months to August 2016, wheat grain and wheat flour prices in Kabul and Kandahar decreased between 4 percent (in the case of wheat flour) to 15 percent (in the case of wheat grain), reflecting the harvest but remained close to, or slightly above, their levels from one year ago. Large regional price differences persist: wheat grain is almost 30 percent more expensive in Kandahar than in Herat.

Inflation rates have increased due mainly to raising import costs caused by the continuing depreciation of the Afghani against the US dollar, although lower global goods and energy prices are mitigating the impact. In July 2016, the CPI in Kabul was up nearly 8 percent relative to the same period last year. The food component of the CPI increased by 9.2 percent, while the non‑food component increased by 7.2 percent.

Stable food security situation overall, but concern remains in some areas for low‑income and displaced people

The overall food security situation has generally been stable owing to the above average harvest in the past years. However, fighting between the Government and insurgent forces resulted in further displacement. More than 220 000 people fled their homes in the beginning of 2016.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) from September 2015 (last available), six provinces are classified in Phase 2: “Stressed” and 12 in Phase 3: “Crisis”. Out of 12 provinces in Phase 3, three provinces Badhakshan, Kunduz and Paktika have 10‑15 percent of the population in Phase 4: “Emergency”.