Wheat harvest not impacted by COVID-19 control measures and disruptions
In urban areas, poor households dependent on labor markets are currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes due to below-average availability of labor opportunities and high food prices. With the harvest starting in May, increased food access is expected to improve outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in many rural areas. Despite the recent talks between parties of the conflict, insurgent attacks increased in April and mid-May, which is destabilizing the situation in both urban and rural areas. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist across parts of the country where conflict-induced displacement is occurring.
The wheat harvest has started in eastern and southern parts of the country. Due to above-average cumulative precipitation and above-average temperatures from October to March, wheat rust diseases are evident and are expected to lead to localized reduced production in affected areas. Furthermore, in eastern parts of the country, recent heavy precipitation during April and May disrupted the harvesting process and damaged crops in the fields. However, vegetable and fruit production in eastern and southern areas is expected to be average, supporting access to income in these areas. Meanwhile, due to deficits of cumulative rainfall from October to December in northern parts of the country, slightly below average wheat production is expected in these areas.
In mid-May, movement restrictions due to COVID-19 were eased in main cities of the country. As a result, some daily labor opportunities are now available in Jalalabad, Herat, Kandahar, and Mazar. This is expected to increase access to income and improve food access for some urban households who were previously facing food consumption gaps. Despite relatively normal functioning of the supply market, food commodity prices in April remain significantly elevated compared to pre-COVID-19 prices in early 2020. As a result of high prices, limited labor opportunities, and below-average wage rates, household purchasing power is below average. This continues to limit many urban households’ ability to purchase food.
In both urban and rural areas, income from labor opportunities and remittances remains below average. Overall, agriculture labor availability is near average; however, wages are below average due to an increase in competition for labor opportunities. Furthermore, due to movement restrictions at borders, labor migration to Iran and Pakistan has decreased relative to historical levels. Given COVID-19 control measures in Iran as well as a high number of Afghan returnees in recent months, remittances from Iran continue to significantly decrease. Given the decline in global oil prices and COVID-19 control measures in Gulf countries, a decline in remittances from these areas is also likely, though a decline in remittances from Gulf countries to Afghanistan specifically has so far not been confirmed.