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Spring wheat planting took place earlier than normal

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Afghanistan
  • March 2013
Spring wheat planting took place earlier than normal

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • Most lower elevation areas of Afghanistan have already emerged from the lean season; dietary diversity and access to markets has improved.

    • Since early February, precipitation has been temporally regular and of normal volume, which has contributed to the current, normal or slightly early crop development. Total seasonal precipitation since October is below average in northern, northeastern, and southern Afghanistan. Near normal rainfall is assumed to continue through April, resulting in continued normal or early development of winter and spring grain crops. 

    • At the higher elevations, poor households’ food stocks will soon run out. Typically, poor households will sell some of their livestock to procure food to last until the grain harvest starts in August or September. With above average terms of trade between livestock and wheat, pastoral and agropastoral households should be able to fund food purchases without making unsustainable livestock sales.


    Current Situation
    • The October to May wet season started slightly late in many areas. Total rainfall before the winter was low, but planted area under winter wheat was near average. Total precipitation remained well below average into January. However, in late January and early February, regular, well distributed snow and rain started. Regular rainfall at lower elevations and snowfall at higher elevations has continued into March. Despite the more timely and regular precipitation in February and March, October 1 to March 10 precipitation totals remain below their 2002 to 2011 average in the central highlands and in northern, northwestern, and southern Afghanistan. In parts of western and eastern Afghanistan, total seasonal precipitation is nearing average or above average.
    • In the northeastern mountains, the central highlands, and parts of eastern Afghanistan, temperatures have been below average since October. The low temperatures preserve snowpack, which will provide irrigation water later in the year, but crop growth may also be slower in eastern Afghanistan due to lower temperatures.
    • Temperatures at lower elevation areas have generally been above their 1961 to 1990 long-term averages since late January. The regular precipitation and warmer than usual temperatures have allowed the planting of spring crops 15 to 20 days earlier than usual. Typically, spring wheat planting takes place in late March and early April. Planted area under spring wheat is reported to be higher than last year, particularly in northern Afghanistan. However, this year’s spring wheat planting took place earlier in March, particulary in northern and northwestern Afghanistan. NDVI and ground reports suggests current crop conditions in both northern Afghanistan and areas of Pakistan that produce staples for export to Afghanistan are somewhat better than usual. In Pakistan’s Sindh Province, the harvest has already started and appears to be average to above average. The early spring wheat sowing in northern and northwestern Afghanistan has increased labor opportunities a bit earlier than normal, facilitating market purchases of food for households in rainfed areas.
    • Above normal temperatures across much of Afghanistan have also impacted increased pasture growth earlier than usual. Pastoralists and agropastoralists have moved livestock into spring grazing areas around a month earlier than normal. This has allowed many households to preserve some of this winter’s fodder stocks for next year.
    • With spring livestock births, milk and milk product availability increases. Birth levels are reported to be near normal.
    • February wheat flour prices remain higher than last year and their five-year averages in the majority of reference markets, in part due to the high costs of imports. However, the majority of people in rural areas stocked sufficient wheat and wheat flour before the winter, which will last until the end of March or into April.
    • Households whose incomes are low and are still market dependent have largely benefited from humanitarian assistance in late 2012 and early 2013. 182,612 households benefited from cash or voucher programs in 2012. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of January to June 2013. However, the precipitation assumption that was update in February has been further refined:

    • In January, the assumption was that precipitation will gradually near the long term average level. In February, this was modified to say that total snowfall was unlike to reach average levels. This is still assumed to be sufficient for irrigation water in the spring growing period. However, the climactic outlook has improved, and now, it appears that spring precipitation in the remainder of March and April will be regular and well distributed. While total October to May wet season precipitation may not reach seasonal average levels, spring rains in March and April are expected to be of near normal volume, duration, and distribution.

    Projected Outlook through June 2013
    • This year, Nowruz, the Central Asian New Year, will be on March 21, marking the traditional beginning of spring. However, the associated seasonal improvements in food security have started earlier than usual with most lower elevations having already emerged from the lean season. Lowland, rainfed areas of northern and northwestern Afghanistan, especially have already seen increasing. dietary diversity and access to markets.
    • At higher elevations, poor households’ food stocks will be exhausted by late March or in April. Poor households typically sell some of their livestock to then fund market purchases between then and the harvest in June or July. With livestock prices higher than their five-year averages and terms of trade between livestock and wheat above average, pastoral and agropastoral households should be able to purchase sufficient quantities of food this spring. They will also benefit from the seasonal increase in milk availability and will be able to fund some purchases with income from the increased availability of labor opportunities.
    • From March to June, food security outcomes are anticipated to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) across the country. Based on current optimal crops conditions, early spring cultivation likely to lead to an early harvest, and the assumption of continued regular and timely rain, outcomes should remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) between now and into June. However, if spring rains were to become poor in terms of amount or spatial or temporal distribution, food security outcomes could deteriorate, particulary in rainfed agricultural areas of the North.
    • As of Feburay 28, there were 502,628 internally displaced persons (IDPs), mostly concentrated in the South and West. Additionally, there are 34,000 people who were affected by small-scale natural disasters in 2012. These households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between now and June.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    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.

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