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Low wheat flour prices improves outlook for the lean season and good early seasonal rains improves 2012 wheat harvest prospects

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Afghanistan
  • November 2011
Low wheat flour prices improves outlook for the lean season and good early seasonal rains improves 2012 wheat harvest prospects

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  • Key Messages
  • Food security outlook update through March 2011
  • Key Messages
    • Food security outcomes have shifted from Crisis (IPC phase 3) to Stress (IPC phase 2) in northwestern Afghanistan as external assistance began to materialize in October and November with additional assistance planned for the remainder of the winter.

    • As a result of the falling export prices in Kazakhstan, wheat flour prices in Afghanistan have taken a downward turn over in the past several months, which is likely to improve access to food.

    • Rainfall during the first six weeks of the wet season has been above normal, which has created favorable conditions for winter wheat land preparation and sowing and is likely to result in increased plantation areas. 


    Food security outlook update through March 2011

    Since external assistance began to materialize in October and November, food security outcomes have shifted from Crisis (IPC phase 3) to Stress (IPC phase 2) in northwestern Afghanistan. Wheat flour prices continued to decline throughout the country from their high levels this summer. This is largely due to the good regional wheat flour supply and low wheat prices in export markets, which is a result of the good Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Russia harvest. Despite these positive developments, households in the northwest will continue to require food assistance until the 2012 harvest. Assuming that the planned assistance will continue, households in the northwest and northeast will be in Stress (IPC phase 2) for the remainder of the outlook period.

    ICRC provided mixed commodity food aid packages to 25,000 households who suffered from the poor harvests and conflict in northern Afghanistan. The assistance is expected to last until February and it will be followed with another round of food distributions in March. The Government of Afghanistan is targeting food and livelihood assistance for 140,000 households in 14 provinces in the central highlands, northwestern, and northeastern Afghanistan. The French and Canadian governments are assisting 5,000 households with cash for work projects in two districts of Samangan province.

    USAID has provided WFP with 40 million dollars of funding to respond to food assistance needs caused by the poor harvest in addition to the 20 million dollars previously donated. An additional 7.2 million dollars in funding for CARE and Save the Children is pending. From May through September, WFP assisted 31,000 households in 14 provinces. In the coming months, additional households are expected to receive assistance from WFP in northwestern Afghanistan. 

    Every year WFP prepositions some food in areas that are normally cut-off from the rest of Afghanistan due to climatic conditions during the winter. This year, 2011 WFP is planning to preposition only 10,000 tons of food aid as opposed to the normal 30,000 tons that they normally preposition in past. As of the beginning of November, only 2,700 tons has been prepositioned. Above-normal snowfall during October and early November complicated logistical access to central highlands and extreme northeast. Typically local food prices within these sub-regions rise during the winter months. Additional early snowfall may further complicate the WFP food aid preposition process, which could have negative implications for the central highlands and extreme northeast. 

    Wheat Markets

    Wheat grain export prices in Kazakhstan have fallen 60 percent from their peak levels in June as a result of the exceptionally good harvest this summer (Figure 4). Pakistan and Russia also had a good harvest this year, increasing the supply in the wheat market and lowering regional wheat prices.

    As a result of the falling export prices in Kazakhstan, wheat flour prices in Afghanistan have also taken a decidedly downward turn over the past several months. In some markets, wheat flour prices momentarily fell slightly below local wheat grain prices in September and October (Figure 3). Wheat flour market prices in Maimana, Faryab and Nilli, Daykundi have decreased by nearly 25 percent since their highest levels in July this year. This is likely to improve the food access for those households who are now dependent on market following the poor harvest. For households in Nilli, low prices this time of year is a positive development as households begin to stock wheat flour for the winter months.  While wheat flour prices in most markets are slightly below the price during the same month last year and the five year average, wheat grain prices remain stubbornly high compared to last year and the five year average in most Afghanistan markets. 

    Seasonal Climatology

    Rainfall during the first six weeks of the wet season has been above normal, which has created favorable conditions for winter wheat land preparation and sowing (Figure 5). Households typically prepare winter wheat crops from October to December. Last year, there was very little early seasonal precipitation, which delayed planting for several months and, in some areas, prevented wheat cultivation. This year’s above-normal precipitation is likely to result in increases in the area planted compared to last year, which is a positive sign for the 2012 wheat harvest.  The early rain and snowfall has also ensured irrigation water availability for downstream farms in northern Afghanistan that were not planted last year due to the scarcity of irrigation water. In addition, the precipitation has brought some relief for areas that have had a scarce drinking water, which has been critically low during the summer.

    The good precipitation has also brought early snow accumulation in the Badakshan and the far northeast (Figure 6). Assuming that temperatures will remain below normal, this will be a good start to snow accumulation, which is essential for spring irrigated water availability.

    New long-term forecasts from IRI show near normal precipitator during winter months, but a heighten probability for lower than normal precipitation later in the wet season. FEWS NET will continue to monitor agricultural prospects for the 2012 harvest. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events Timeline

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events Timeline

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Wheat Flour Retail Prices (Jan. 2010 to Sept. 2011)

    Figure 2

    Figure 3. Wheat Flour Retail Prices (Jan. 2010 to Sept. 2011)

    Source: FEWS NET/WFP

    Figure 4. International wheat prices and Afghan wheat flour prices

    Figure 3

    Figure 4. International wheat prices and Afghan wheat flour prices

    Source: FEWS NET/WFP

    Figure 5. Season accumulated precipitation versus long-term average (October 1st to October 31st)

    Figure 4

    Figure 5. Season accumulated precipitation versus long-term average (October 1st to October 31st)

    Source: USGS

    Figure 6. Current season snow cover (Nov 1 to 8, 2011) extent against historical average

    Figure 5

    Figure 6. Current season snow cover (Nov 1 to 8, 2011) extent against historical average

    Source: USGS

    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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