Reference Date: 30-November-2012
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Bumper wheat harvest gathered in 2012
High wheat prices together with high levels of inflation remain
Food security situation improves but vulnerable groups in parts still a concern
The winter cropping season has begun under generally favourable weather conditions.
Recent precipitation in some areas is expected to assist land preparation. About 90 percent of the wheat crop is planted in autumn, and about 80 percent of the crop is rain-fed. During sowing, levels of temperature in western parts of the country remained mostly above average, while lingered at below average levels in the east. Eastern and Southeastern regions received beneficial rainfall in September although less than in 2011. Kunduz province in the east has particularly been affected by early season dryness. However, seasonal forecasts indicate increased precipitation in the coming weeks and are expected to lower the moisture deficit.
Improved seed availability through private companies together with the provision of subsidised improved seeds to farmers by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL) is also expected to assist crop productivity.
Wheat harvest well above average in 2012
The 2012 wheat production reached 5 million tonnes, second highest on record for the last 35 years after the 2009 harvest of 5.1 million tonnes, according to the Ministry. At this level, the crop is about 54 percent higher than last year’s drought affected crop and about 25 percent above the previous five years average thanks to timely rains coupled with larger planted area. Accordingly, cereal imports (mainly wheat) in the current marketing year 2012/13 are forecast at 1 262 million tonnes, about 44 percent lower than last year and 36 percent less than the five-year average.
Elsewhere, the annual opium survey of Afghanistan found that the poppy cultivated area in 2012 increased by 18 percent following high opium prices. However, the total amount of production decreased by 36 percent compared to 2011 due to crop disease and harsh weather. Various projects to replace opium cultivation with other alternatives (e.g., saffron, cotton) are under way. Poppy free provinces were rewarded with agricultural machinery by the government.
High levels of inflation persist together with rising wheat prices since June 2012
Despite a bumper harvest in 2012, wheat and wheat flour prices have been increasing since June 2012. Flour prices recorded higher increases reflecting limited milling capacity in the country. In October 2012 wheat and flour prices in Kabul were 14 and 20 percent higher than a year ago, but slightly lower or similar to the last five year average. Continuous depreciation of the Afghani over the last two years amplified the price increases in local currency. Households’ food stocks built in preparation for the winter have also contributed to a seasonally induced demand. The above-average domestic wheat harvest in 2012 is expected to have partly buffered the prevailing price increases in global and regional markets. For instance, Kazakhstan, a traditional supplier to Afghanistan, supplies wheat exports at a price level that is 40 percent higher than last year.
Inflation rates have remained elevated due mainly to high energy costs. In October 2012 the national CPI was up 5.3 percent relative to the same period last year. The food component of the CPI increased by 2.1 percent while the non-food component rose by 9.4 percent. Compared to last year, bread and cereals increased by 4.8 percent, while the largest increases were recorded for non-alcoholic beverages (16.7 percent), spices (13.2 percent), and meats (10.9 percent).
Stable food security situation overall but concern remains in parts for low income people
The overall food security situation has generally been stable owing to the 2012 bumper harvest. However, food security concerns remain in some areas, particularly in the extreme northeast and some higher elevation areas in the central highlands that were affected by extreme cold temperatures in early 2012 leading to loss of livestock. With winter season approaching, WFP had intensified the provision of food supplies to communities that will be cut off in the winter months in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan. High unemployment rates coupled with high rates of inflation present real food security challenges, mainly to low income households.
In addition, the decline in remittances from Iran following the rapid depreciation of the Iranian Rial has increased the food security stress on households relying on them.