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  Afghanistan

Reference Date: 04-March-2019

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Favourable autumn rains facilitate planting and secure moisture reserves for crop development

  2. Below-average cereal harvest gathered in 2018 following dry weather conditions

  3. Cereal import requirements in 2018/19 increasing

  4. Prices of wheat stable or increasing, inflation low

  5. High levels of food insecurity prevail

Favourable rains facilitate planting and secure moisture reserves for crop development

The winter wheat and barley crops, planted in October and November 2018, will be harvested from May. The majority of the wheat grown in the country is a winter variety. Sowing of spring wheat, grown mostly in northeastern mountainous areas where early freezing in autumn prevents cultivation of winter cereals, is expected to start in March.

Unlike the previous season that was characterized by a late onset of the rains and a below-average snow pack, which constrained supplies of irrigation water, timely rains in autumn 2018 brought adequate precipitation over most of the country facilitating planting. In the north and northeastern provinces, above average precipitation amounts were recorded, while average conditions prevailed in central and western regions. Sufficient snow volumes in the mountains provided adequate moisture reserves for crop development as well as secured availability of irrigation water for spring crops. As of early February 2019, minor precipitation deficits prevailed in southern provinces, but were likely compensated by upcoming spring precipitation.

Reports indicate lower-than-usual seed availability particularly in remote areas due to limited seed distribution by the Government and other actors as well as the lower harvest in the previous season.

Below-average cereal harvest gathered in 2018 due to dry weather

Lower-than-average precipitation, coupled with above normal temperatures prevalent throughout the Central Asia region during the season, constrained cereal production to 4.5 million tonnes. The wheat production estimate indicates a 16 percent reduction from the previous year and a decline of 25 percent compared to the five-year average. With localized exceptions, below-average precipitations also have constrained pasture availability in most rangelands, compromising livelihoods relying on livestock rearing.

According to the 2018 Opium Survey (released in November 2018), the 2018 total area under opium poppy cultivation is estimated at 263 000 hectares. Although this figure shows a decrease of 20 percent compared to the previous year, attributed mostly to drought, the 2018 area under opium poppy cultivation remains at high levels. The majority of the cultivation takes place in the southern part of the country. In Hilmand, the major opium-cultivating province, one-third of the arable land is planted with poppy. Potential opium production in 2018 is estimated at 6 400 tonnes, about 30 percent less than the 2017 record output.

Increasing cereal import requirements in 2018/19

The cereal import requirements (mainly wheat) in the 2018/19 marketing year (July/June) are forecast at 3.4 million tonnes, 15 percent higher than in the previous year and over 35 percent above the five‑year average. Even during years with above-average domestic wheat production, the country imports large quantities of wheat flour reflecting the lack of adequate domestic milling capacity. Imported flour is often blended with domestic wheat in order to improve its protein content.

Prices of wheat increasing or stable, levels of inflation low

Despite the below average domestic cereal harvest, prices of wheat grain increased in some markets, while remaining stable in others, constrained by export availability and price stability in both Pakistan and Kazakhstan, the main sources of wheat and wheat flour of the country.

Inflation rates, which were negative in spring 2018, reached 1 percent in November 2018 (last data available). The food component of the CPI, which has been negative since March 2018, recorded a negative 1.6 percent in March 2018, compared to around 10 percent in early 2017. Low inflation rates were supported by declining international energy and food prices as well as weak domestic demand resulting from the deteriorating domestic security situation.

High levels of food insecurity

As of September 2018, about 9.8 million people (44 percent of the rural population) were estimated to be in Food Crisis and Emergency (IPC Phase 3 and Phase 4). An estimated 2.6 million people are classified in IPC Phase 4 nationwide requiring urgent action to reduce their food deficits and to protect their livelihoods. The current estimates of people in Phase 3 and Phase 4 correspond to a 17.4 percent increase compared to the previous analysis for the same period in 2017. Projections suggest that from November 2018 to February 2019, the total population in IPC Phase 3 and Phase 4 is expected to increase to 10.6 million (47 percent of the rural population). Continuing conflict, natural hazards and limited economic opportunities have increased the vulnerability of the poorest households, including subsistence farmers.

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