GIEWS Country Brief: Afghanistan 19-February-2016

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  • Normal weather conditions prevail so far for 2016 winter grains crop

  • Cereal import requirements in 2015/16 forecast at levels similar to 2014/15

  • Inflation easing owing to lower energy costs

Normal conditions prevail so far for 2016 winter grain crop

Planting of 2016 winter grains, mainly wheat, for harvest from May through June 2016, was mostly completed in November although in some parts of Nimroz, Hirat and Baghlan provinces it continued until December. Normal availability of seeds and inputs was reported. Planting of spring wheat normally starts in March. On average, about 2.2 million hectares are cultivated with wheat annually and about 90 percent of the wheat crop is planted in the autumn months. Unlike in the 2014/15 winter, snow accumulation so far has been closer to a long‑term average. Snow runoffs from the mountains normally provide over 80 percent of the irrigation water. Given average precipitation, it is likely that the water availability for irrigation in the 2016 primary growing season will be normal.

According to the Normalized Difference Vegetation Indices (NDVI), as of end of January 2016 cereal crops were in a poorer condition compared to the long‑term average in Bamyan, Ghazni, Ghor, Nimroz, Samangam, Wardak and Zabul provinces. These provinces however are not the main wheat producing provinces of Afghanistan. Elsewhere the crop conditions were average or above average. Assuming normal weather conditions prevail for the remainder of the season, an average or above average crop is likely to be harvested.

Average 2015 wheat crop collected

The 2015 crop season progressed under mixed weather conditions. Timely and sufficient rains in autumn 2014 facilitated plantings. However, up to mid-February, snow cover reported in northern and eastern Afghanistan remained limited, increasing danger of freeze-kill and threatening irrigation water availability. Precipitation later in the season mitigated the outcome. Consequently, the 2015 wheat crop stood at 4.7 million tonnes, some 13 percent less than a record crop of 5.37 million tonnes in 2014, and about the same as the five-year average.

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 the farmers still relied on their own farm-saved seeds. Households with low purchasing power in some areas are eligible for subsidies for improved seeds.

Elsewhere in the sector, the 2014 Opium Survey in Afghanistan revealed that in 2014 the total area under opium poppy cultivation (224 000 hectares) increased by 7 percent compared to the previous year, whereas potential opium production was estimated at 6 400 tonnes, an increase of 17 percent from its 2013 level (5 500 tonnes) and the second highest level since 1994. The increase in opium production in 2014 led to a 23 percent decrease in the average farm-gate price of dry opium in 2014, yet opium remained the most lucrative crop in the country: the ratio of gross income per hectare of wheat to opium poppy was 1:4 and the ratio of net income was 1:6.

Wheat import requirements in 2015/16 similar to previous year

Cereal import requirements (mainly wheat) in the current 2015/16 marketing year (July/June) are forecast at 2.2 million tonnes, slightly more than in the previous year and about the same as 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 up, but levels of inflation easing

Despite a series of well above harvests gathered since 2012, wheat and wheat flour prices in some provinces have been increasing since June 2012 compared to their pre-2012 levels. In January 2016, wheat grain and wheat flour prices in Kabul and Kandahar continued increasing. In Kabul, wheat grain prices increased 12 percent compared to three months ago and 10 percent compared to one year ago while wheat flour was over 18 percent more expensive than one year ago. Large regional price differences persist: wheat grain is over 40 percent more expensive in Kandahar than in Herat. Inflation rates have declined due mainly to easing energy costs. In December 2015, the CPI in Kabul was close to 0 percent relative to the same period last year. The food component of the CPI decreased by 0.3 percent, while the non-food component decreased by 1.3 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.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) valid from November 2015 to March 2016, 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 to 15 percent of the population in Phase 4 “Emergency”. January to March is the lean season with no agricultural activity when households rely on food stocks and market purchases with snow often blocking access to the markets.