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Normal spring cultivation foreseen in Afghanistan due to early March precipitation

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Afghanistan
  • March 2014
Normal spring cultivation foreseen in Afghanistan due to early March precipitation

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2014
  • Key Messages
    • From March to June, food security outcomes are anticipated to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for most parts of the country. Poor rural households, whose food stocks will be exhausted by April, are likely to procure new food stocks through normal seasonal income sources.
    • Food security outcomes for the West-Central Highlands are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) from March to June with minimal food needs covered by external assistance. These households will not be able to rely on normal seasonal income from livestock sales due to distress sales last year, nor income from other normal seasonal activities as earnings from agricultural labor will not materialize until late May.
    • During winter when income opportunities decrease to their minimum, households displaced between January and March are now in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as external assistance only covers the short-term. However, when normal daily labor opportunities resume in the spring, food security outcomes are likely to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) beginning in April.

    Current Situation
    • Winter food stocks for poor rural households will be exhausted by the end of winter in March. Therefore, at the end of March, poor households will sell livestock, receive remittances, and earn daily wages in order to procure new stocks in April in order to bridge the gap until the upcoming harvest, in May in the lowlands and until September in the highlands.
    • In the West-Central Highlands Livelihood zone, February livestock prices were above the five-year average in most reference markets, with the continued exception of Nili where fodder availability remains low from the poor 2013 harvest. Rainfed crop harvest failure in this livelihood zone has forced a shift in the food source for these households from own production (without reserves) to external assistance, particularly during the September 2013 to March 2014 period.
    • Remittances from Gulf countries and Iran are normal.
    • Based on USGS remote sensing data, overall wet season precipitation from October 1, 2013 to March 10, 2014 was very poor, particularly in northern Afghanistan. Though, in early February, Afghanistan’s mountainous area received several moderate snowfalls, which can provide at least the same level of irrigation water as last year. As it is midway through the wet season, outcomes are still unclear at this time. The most critical time for precipitation is from March to June, having a critical impact on crop planting (spring cultivation) and crop development. Generous precipitation during the first ten days of March and the near-term forecast of average precipitation is likely to lead to a normal spring cultivation and development. By the end of March, cultivated winter wheat is also likely to benefit from the increased moisture levels in March as it will be emerging from dormancy then.
    • Due to ongoing good precipitation in early March, spring cultivation is underway as normal, which resulted in the usual level of recruitment of daily laborers in rural Afghanistan. High levels of precipitation in early March caused localized flooding in parts of northern Afghanistan, of which the impacts are still being assessed. In areas that were already assessed, 40 households in Balkh Province received food and non-food external assistance.
    • Kazakhstan and Pakistan are important sources for staple food in Afghanistan, particularly wheat flour. Therefore, FEWS NET Afghanistan is monitoring closely these two countries in relation to their harvest volumes, trade policies, and factors that feed the wheat trade policies. Pakistan’s 2013/2014 wheat harvest is expected to be slightly higher than the 2012/2013 harvest. USDA February 2014 estimates show that Kazakhstan’s exports will be one million MT below their eight million MT target for 2014. In addition, Kazakh currency has been devaluated in the recent months. Thus, in early February, concerns were growing regarding the Kazakh government possibly scaling down their wheat exports, having a potentially negative impact on supply and prices for countries in the regional. On February 18, the Kazakh government decided not to reduce its international grain exports, consistent with the past six years, according to Asylzham Mamytbekov, Kazakhstan Minister of Agriculture. This is likely to keep the wheat flour supply and prices stable for Afghanistan in 2014.
    • February wheat flour prices are above their five-year averages in all reference markets. The biggest differences compared to the five-year average are observed in Mazar and Kandahar with wheat flour prices up 25 percent. The recent fluctuations in wheat flour prices are a result of the unstable Afghanistan currency against U.S. dollar exchange rates, demonstrated by the high wheat flour prices seen in source markets in recent months, such as in Kazakhstan as compared to last year. In addition, food prices are typically higher during wintertime.

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used in FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for January to June 2014 remain unchanged.

    Projected Outlook through June 2014
    • Food security outcomes from March to June are anticipated to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for most parts of the country. Poor rural households, whose food stocks will be exhausted by April, are likely to procure new food stocks through livestock sales, remittances, and daily wage labor, all of which are expected to be at normal levels.
    • The West-Central Highlands Agropastoral livelihood zone is likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) in March as poor households are meeting their immediate, minimally adequate food needs through external assistance. By April, normal livelihood activities are expected to resume, such as labor on poppy farms in Helmand province. However, this will not yet improve the food security classification for April to June as labor migrants will not be paid until late May. In addition, poor households do not have livestock to sell this year given the distress sales last year, which would normally be a source of income for them during this time of year. External assistance, however, is planned to continue through at least June.
    • Newly displaced IPDs tend to rely heavily on assistance and seasonal construction labor during summers. They will meet their basic food needs due to external assistance received, market purchases made with any remaining earnings from daily wage labor from last summer, and some casual wage labor earned during wintertime. However, their diet is not likely to be very diverse and it will have worsened once they were displaced. IDPs are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during March, until normal daily labor opportunities resume in spring (April). At this time, acute food insecurity is likely to reduce to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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