Skip to main content

Near normal temperatures and delayed snowmelt in March slightly delay the wheat harvest

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Afghanistan
  • April 2019
Near normal temperatures and delayed snowmelt in March slightly delay the wheat harvest

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2019
  • Key Messages
    • Cumulative precipitation across most of the country through mid-April is significantly above average facilitating sowing activities. However, due to the delayed snowmelt as a result of average temperatures in March, the harvest will most likely be delayed up to three weeks in some areas. Flash flooding due to heavy rain on snow has also affected nearly 225,000 people as of April 16 in 18 provinces, according to OCHA.

    • Food security outcomes are likely to gradually improve throughout the country as the main harvest begins in late May/early June with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes emerging. However, undocumented returnees, households with lower-than-average remittances, and those who may be displaced due to natural disasters (floods in particular) are anticipated to continue to face Crisis IPC (Phase 3) outcomes. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to continue in Badghis and Badakhshan through September. 

    • Nearly 78,000 people have been displaced by conflict from January to late April 2019; below the rate during the same time over the past two years. Many newly displaced households are estimated to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and need urgent assistance to protect livelihoods and mitigate food consumption gaps. The provinces hosting the greatest numbers of newly displaced households mostly due to conflict are Kabul, Kunduz, Takhar, Faryab, Farah, Badghis, and Herat. 

    • Most poor and displaced households are relying on credit or minimal income to purchase seeds for the 2019 agriculture season. Ground information and key informants indicate that planting is ongoing at near normal levels. The 2019 cereal harvest starting in June is likely to be near average, due to near average area planted, normal progression of the wet season, and above average cumulative precipitation. 

    Current Situation

    The 2018/19 wet season started on time in October although slightly erratic. Cumulative precipitation is well above average through late April (Figure 1). From February to Mid-March, temperatures were average to below average slightly delaying the start of the spring rains and the snow melt. This has slightly delayed the growth of vegetation and crops. Currently vegetative conditions are mostly similar to above conditions at the same time last year. Soil moisture is favorable across the entire country with water available for irrigation, land preparation, and planting.

    Land preparation activities started normally across the country, as normal spring rains encouraged farmers about the positive prospects for the season. Most households are trying to access seeds through all possible means; even purchasing seeds on credit, as to not miss the agriculture season. FEWS NET current estimates indicate area planted is near normal as most households will be able to access seeds. However, there will be some provincial variation as access to seeds by province differs. Official crop estimates provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock will be available after the pre-harvest assessment in May. 

    Retail wheat flour prices increased across monitored markets by 12 percent on average compared to the same time last year. This is the result of the continued depreciation of the Afghani (AFN) compared to the US Dollar (USD) as wheat flour is imported from Kazakhstan based on the USD. The number of available labor days slightly increased on average from February to March, as agriculture opportunities became available, although they remain below average (Figure 2). 

    Specifically, in areas were poppy is harvested; Nangarhar, Helmand and Kandahar and in neighboring provinces, labor opportunities have significantly increased since the beginning of April, according to field reports. The poppy harvest generates some local employment opportunities, often paying several times the wage rate of other sectors for a period of roughly two weeks. Income generated from poppy goes primarily to better-off households but is still a source of income for many households who provide labor during the harvest. Many communities have become dependent on the income from labor in the opium poppy sector to sustain their livelihoods. As most of the poor households are relying on market purchases during this time of the year, increased labor opportunities and wages is increasing household purchasing power.

    Spring flooding affects some households every year, primarily in eastern and northern Afghanistan. The regular rains in March and April have led to some flooding in across northern, southern, eastern, and western Afghanistan. From mid-January to late April flooding affected slightly over 240,000 people. There are reports of isolated incidences of crop destruction. However, most flooding has occurred in urban areas with limited effects on the ongoing agriculture season.

    Most poor households remain highly dependent on market purchases for food as many households are still waiting for the harvest. Although access to labor opportunities and incomes slightly increased; this has slightly increased household purchasing power. However, in higher-elevated areas of the country access to agriculture labor is limited as these areas are still slowly transitioning from winter to spring. Spring flooding affects some households every year, primarily northeastern, northern, eastern western and southern Afghanistan. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are widespread across most of the country. Conflict, flood, and drought affected internally displaced people (IDPs), as well as undocumented returnees continue to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present in areas where labor opportunities are near normal.

    Updated Assumptions

    Most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of February to September 2019 remain unchanged. However, the following assumption has been modified:

    • The rate of migration to Iran is expected to decrease as more households focus on agriculture activities within Afghanistan, further impacting labor opportunities.

    Projected Outlook through September 2019

    The main harvest, primarily for wheat, will begin in late May/early June continuing, through September in higher elevations. Prior to the harvest, many rural households in the northern, northeastern, northwestern and western regions will continue to have limited to no food stocks from the below average 2018 harvest. Households are likely to earn below average incomes as a result of below average remittances from Iran, continued impacts from the 2018 drought and lower than average employment opportunities. Flood affected households who lost their crops; and households who have been displaced more than one time since mid-2018 are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The continued weak casual labor market and lower than average remittances, the ongoing conflict between various insurgent groups (primarily the Taliban and IS) and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are anticipated to decrease seasonal incomes to below average levels. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are most likely to continue in areas of Badghis and Badakhshan; newly displaced households due to conflict; returnees from Iran or Pakistan; and poor households recovering from the 2018 drought. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are most likely to start emerging in late May/early June with the harvest. These outcomes are likely to continue as many households are most likely to be consuming own foods. 

    Figures Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: USGS/EROS

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Source: WFP

    Mid-October to March is the winter wet season. March to May is the spring wet season. March to May is spring wheat planting.

    Figure 3

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top