Update on performance of the October 2016 – May 2017 wet season
October – December 2016 precipitation was below average throughout most of the country (Figure 1). This led to delayed planting of winter wheat in many areas, particularly in northern, northeastern, and western regions.
Furthermore, field reports have indicated that, in some provinces, area planted under winter wheat is smaller than last year, in some cases due to insufficient soil moisture, and in others due to conflict-related disruptions to land preparation and planting. Many farmers in these unplanted areas will likely sow in the spring.
Various meteorological services, including NOAA, anticipate that the ongoing La Niña will dissipate by February 2017.
Under ENSO neutral conditions, climate forecast models indicate a wide range of possible outcomes for February – April rain and snowfall in Afghanistan, with a most likely scenario of average to above-average cumulative precipitation.
Snowpack has increased substantially throughout the country in January and early February, including heavy snowfall during the first week of February that led to road blockages, avalanche, and an unknown number of deaths and other adverse impacts. As of February 5 2017, USGS monitoring products indicate above-average snowpack throughout the country, with several basins indicating record levels. Water availability is very likely to be sufficient throughout the country for the normal development of main season irrigated crops, primarily wheat.
The quantity, frequency, and distribution of spring rainfall has a substantial impact on harvest outcomes for rainfed wheat, which exhibited significant year-to-year variation in aggregate production between 2005 and 2016 (Figure 4).
During this period, there were two particularly poor years for rainfed wheat production: 2008 (217,000 MT) and 2011 (321,000 MT). For both of these years, precipitation during the March/April planting season was well below average in key rainfed production areas. This year, forecasts indicate a likelihood for average to above-average cumulative precipitation during these months. However, continued monitoring of the quantity and distribution of rainfall in different parts of the country remains critical in understanding the likely impact of the upcoming season on food security outcomes.