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Poor early season precipitation delayed the planting of winter wheat in most areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Afghanistan
  • December 2017
Poor early season precipitation delayed the planting of winter wheat in most areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated assumptions
  • Projected outlook through May 2018
  • Key Messages
    • Precipitation received during the early part of the wet season through December 17th has been below average, particularly across the north and northeast (Figure 3). The weak start of the wet season delayed planting of winter wheat in most areas. As of mid-December, the planting process was not yet complete in many areas, as in a typical year.

    • Second-season (autumn) crops have generally been reported with near-normal production and market demand. These crops are mostly harvested in October and November and include maize, rice, potato, and sesame, as well as many vegetables, fruits, and other orchard crops such as almonds and walnuts. 

    • Conflict and civil insecurity have caused the displacement of more than one million people over the past two years, and have disrupted livelihoods activities for many more. Areas of greatest concern for conflict-related food insecurity include Nangarhar, Hilmand, Farah, Faryab, Badghis, Sari Pul, Kunduz, Badakhshan, and Zabul Provinces, where control measures on the movement of people and goods are limiting the ability of households to maintain their normal livelihood activities.

    • Populations in need of urgent humanitarian assistance are present throughout the country, due primarily to the impact of conflict and weak labor opportunities. Most areas are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through at least May 2017, with an increasing number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes from now through March 2018. The number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes during the 2018 lean season is expected to be higher than in 2017.

    Current situation

    Cumulative precipitation for the 2017/2018 wet season through mid-December has been below-average throughout the country, with the largest deficits across the north and northeast of the country (Figure 3). The weak start to the wet season delayed the planting of winter wheat in most areas.

    Winter wheat planting started in September, and is ongoing in December. As of early December, an estimated 50 - 60 percent of the average area for irrigated and rainfed winter wheat had been planted. Moderate to heavy rains in some areas in October and November, as well as the continued availability of irrigation water, has allowed planting in many areas despite the precipitation deficits. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) is distributing 10,000 metric tons (MT) of subsidized, certified, improved winter wheat seeds in all provinces.

    Approximately 524,861 undocumented Afghanistan nationals and over 59,000 documented refugees have repatriated from Pakistan and Iran in 2017. Although UNHCR is providing the majority of the documented refugees with some humanitarian assistance, the majority of the undocumented returnees have not received assistance from any official agency. Many of these households are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse throughout the winter and lean season.

    Approximately 375,000 people have been displaced by conflict in 2017 through November. Recent years have seen a drastic increase in the number of conflict-induced displacements, with 2016 registering as the worst year since 2002 with approximately 670,000 people displaced. With a concurrent weakening in casual labor markets, many displaced households are unable to meet basic food and non-food needs without external assistance.

    Badghis Province was severely impacted by below-average precipitation during parts of the 2016/2017 wet season. Although prolonged dry spells impacted aggregate 2017 wheat production in the province, the most severe impact was among small-scale farmers, many of whom experienced major losses to staple harvests. There was a nearly 35 percent reduction in aggregate wheat production as compared to the previous year, and a significant reduction in other crops including melon, watermelon, pea, barley, and cumin. Pasture conditions were also poor, leading to distressed sales of livestock during June-August 2017 at low selling prices. Additionally, below-average precipitation led to a reduction in employment opportunities and daily wage rates.

    Livestock sales (primarily sheep and goat) typically occur in November and December. However, due to poor pasture conditions and the associated shortage of forage and fodder, many households sold livestock earlier than usual, beginning as early as June. According to information from DAIL, livestock traders, and the observations of a humanitarian assessment team at the livestock market in Qala-e-Naw, general livestock body conditions are poor. The price of livestock (sheep and goats) reduced by an average of AFN 1,500 per head during November 2017 compared to the same month of last year.  

    Updated assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the October 2017 – May 2018 remain valid. 

    Projected outlook through May 2018

    Winter wheat planting will continue through the end of December. As both agricultural and construction labor opportunities will be mostly unavailable by January, households will experience a seasonal reduction in income-earning opportunities. Households will consume food primarily from their own stocks, or will make purchases using savings earned earlier in the year or from year-round sources of income such as formal employment with various branches of the government, including the military and police forces. Some households will also benefit from remittances, either from household-members residing in urban areas or from abroad.

    Due to the anticipated impact of the ongoing La Niña, below-average cumulative precipitation is expected for the 2017/2018 wet season. Meanwhile, near-surface air temperatures are expected to be above both the long-term and short-term averages. With below-average rain and snow, pasture conditions in the spring will likely be worse than usual, leading to poor livestock body conditions in February and March and early selling of livestock.

    With continued conflict and displacement due to insecurity, seasonally increasing food prices, and limited road access for trade or humanitarian assistance during the winter, as well as a seasonal increase in the prevalence of acute respiratory infections (ARI) during the winter, the prevalence of acute malnutrition is likely to increase seasonally between January and March.

    Wheat grain and flour prices are likely be mostly stable through May. Many rural households will have little demand for market purchases as they consume their own stocks. Traders are expected to import from traditional sources such as Kazakhstan and Pakistan, which will remain sufficient to meet domestic demand.

    From January to May 2018, many areas of the country are anticipated to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, ongoing conflict and poor market access will continue to impact outcomes in much of the country, particularly in parts of Badghis, Ghor, Badakhshan, Nuristan, Bamyan, Daykundi, Hilmand, and Zabul Provinces, as well as some districts of Nangarhar, Kunduz, Baghlan, Takhar, Kandahar, and Farah Provinces. This will lead to an increasing number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes from now through March 2018. In the absence of additional humanitarian assistance and reintegration into local economies, many IDPs are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the period.

    Figures Estimated total rainfall anomaly, 19 September – 17 December 2017

    Figure 1

    Estimated total rainfall anomaly, 19 September – 17 December 2017

    Source: NOAA/RFE2

    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.

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