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Increasing conflicts and natural disasters have resulted in acutely food insecure groups

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Afghanistan
  • July - December 2015
Increasing conflicts and natural disasters have resulted in acutely food insecure groups

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Increasing insecurity in various parts of the country has led to the displacement of more than 40,000 people this year through June. Many displaced households have lost normal sources of food and income and are in need of humanitarian assistance. Further displacement is likely throughout 2015, and the number of displaced this year is likely to exceed figures for 2014.

    • In addition to an improved wheat harvest, fruit production has been better than last year, especially melon and watermelon production, which is up to 35 percent above last year’s production in north and northeastern provinces.

    • Due to below-average precipitation and high temperatures in June in the central highlands, pasture conditions are worse than normal for the season, adversely impacting pastoral households in these areas. 

    • In the central highlands, the potato and wheat harvests are expected to be below those of last year. However, with harvests and remittances, most households are likely to stock sufficient food for winter and spring. The price of potato has decreased 20 to 25 percent as compared to last year. 

    National Overview

    The 2015 cereal harvest is currently underway. The quantity, timing, frequency, and distribution of precipitation during the 2014/2015 wet season was generally favorable for 2015 crop production. Although the wet season started very slowly, with accumulated precipitation from October to February 20th well below the long-term average (2002-2011) in most parts of the country, in late February large storms brought significant snowfall in higher elevation areas. Spring rainfall started on time as early as February, and continued at a regular frequency with above-average accumulation into May. Although the spring rains have brought above-average total precipitation between late February and May, the total accumulated October to June precipitation remained below-average in many provinces, particularly in northern and southern Afghanistan (Figure).

    Planted area under wheat in 2014/2015 was slightly greater than 2013/2014 for both irrigated and rainfed areas. The increase in planted area on rainfed land is particularly pronounced in northern, northeastern, western and to some extent in eastern Afghanistan, mainly due to ample precipitation. Nevertheless, planted area for wheat has been reduced in a few provinces in southern Afghanistan due to below-average precipitation. There are also unconfirmed reports indicating reduced planted area for wheat in relatively insecure areas of Afghanistan due to increased poppy cultivation.

    Temperatures have been slightly below-average since April, particularly in the central highlands and northeast. This has helped preserve snowpack and has helped farmers to prepare more lands for cultivation due to the availability of water for irrigation, particularly in downstream areas.

    The below-average temperatures preserved much of the snow pack for longer than normal. The snowmelt continues to provide sufficient irrigation water in the vast majority of irrigated areas. The irrigation water and slower than usual snowmelt has provided water for intensive agriculture including horticultural production, for both winter and spring grain crops, and for the ongoing second plantings of cash crops, fodder, and secondary grains. More than 80 percent of Afghanistan’s water is surface water which derives from snowmelt. Typically during the dry season from June to September, water availability for irrigation and for human consumption becomes scarcer. However, so far this summer, access to irrigation water and drinking water remains sufficient.

    In addition to the positive effects on agricultural activities, the above-average precipitation and lower temperatures this year have contributed to good pasture conditions in most regions of the country that have resulted in seasonally improved livestock health and higher livestock prices than during the last two years. Higher livestock prices are likely to increase agro-pastoralists’ and pastoralists’ (Kuchis’) purchasing power for procuring food. The sheep to wheat terms of trade (ToT) has also improved in six regions (eastern, northeastern, northern, north-central, western and central highlands) due to good livestock and pasture conditions, while deteriorated in three regions (southeastern, southwestern and south-central). Although sheep to wheat ToT have improved in most of the northeast region, it has deteriorated in Badakhshan.

    As the first season of crops, which is dominated by winter and spring wheat, has generally been developing well since March or April, daily agricultural labor wages are as much as double last year’s rates for harvest labor in some areas. Agricultural wages are particularly improved in northern Afghanistan due to a sharp increase in labor demand, especially in rainfed areas. In cases of in-kind payment, some laborers are asking for up to a 20 to 30 percent share of the harvest when assisting the landowner with harvesting a large, standing cereal crop by hand in rainfed areas.

    In June, wheat prices across Afghanistan were relatively stable compared to the past several months. However, they decreased slightly from May to June in some northern markets, including Mazar-e-Sharif. Although June prices were generally slightly lower in the main cities of Afghanistan (Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Nili, and Maimana) as compared to last year, they were significantly higher by 15.6 percent compared to the five-year average.

    In the lowlands, the 2015 cereal harvest started in the middle of May and has been completed. In the midlands, the harvest is still underway. Harvesting in the central highlands and extreme northeastern Afghanistan should begin by August or September, and as late as October in the highest elevations. In Bamyan Province in the central highlands, poor households have started purchasing wheat or wheat flour from the market prior to the wheat harvest in September. As labor wages in June in this province were lower than last year, the purchasing power of poor households has deteriorated.

    In areas where winter wheat or other winter crop harvests are complete, the planting of second crops has begun in July. In intensive irrigated areas, second crops such as rice and cotton are being planted due to good water availability. Most of these crops are becoming established and are in average condition. Melons and watermelons are important cash crops particularly in the northeastern region, and are also consumed by households that grow them. They can be stored until December, and melon, in some areas, is dried to diversify the winter and lean season diet. There are no reports of any major impact of pests or diseases this year for melons and watermelons in northern Afghanistan, and no melon losses to the melon fly are expected. No outbreak has been reported in southern Afghanistan, where both the melon and watermelon crops are reported to be developing well and harvesting has already started in July in some areas and will continue through September.

    With steady rainfall, the ongoing harvest, and stable staple food prices, the majority of households are not currently facing any major shocks leading to acute food insecurity, and this time of year is a relative peak for food consumption and dietary diversity. In areas where livestock are kept, milk is generally available at a sufficient level. Labor wages and remittances are keeping consumption at usual levels for market-dependent households. As such, most of Afghanistan is currently in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. However, some households that have suffered major losses of livelihood assets or crops are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). These include internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been recently displaced by spring floods or by the ongoing conflict, and are still in the process of trying to establish new livelihoods. Although there are populations that are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) throughout much of the country, in most areas they do not constitute more than one out of five people to define an area classification.

    The most likely scenario for July to December 2015 is based on the following assumptions:

    • The 2015 cereal harvests both from irrigated and from rainfed areas are likely to be above the last two years.
    • The potato harvest in the central highlands including Bamyan province will be below average. This will lead to below average market availability of domestic potatoes for September to December.
    • As this year’s harvest will boost availability, local wheat prices are expected to remain lower than last year but higher than the five-year average through September. Prices may be especially low in the northern markets.
    • The August to September spring wheat harvest in Kazakhstan will likely be slightly below average and last year. This year the export potential of Kazakhstan is around 7 million tons while Afghanistan’s import needs are also lower, so no disruptions to wheat and wheat flour imports from Kazakhstan are expected. However, as the price of wheat and wheat flour from Kazakhstan will increase, this will contribute to higher priced imports during the stocking period from October to December.
    • The March to June Rabi winter wheat harvest mainly in Punjab, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan produced an above average amount of wheat of 23 million tons plus. As the harvest was above average, Pakistan will not introduce any new restrictions on wheat and wheat flour trade with Afghanistan.
    • Civil insecurity and lawlessness along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border will not be at high enough of a level to significantly discourage traders or disrupt other normal livelihood strategies.
    • During October and November, household typically stock wheat and wheat flour for the winter. As demand increases and some wheat and/or wheat flour imports from Kazakhstan and Pakistan will still need to occur this year, wheat flour prices are expected to increase from their present low levels to marginally higher than the five-year average from October to December due to higher prices from the source markets.
    • Irrigation water availability will remain normal from now to December except in central highlands, where the irrigation water has started to decrease from now on. Households that did not manage to plant winter wheat or spring wheat due to low temperatures planted higher value cash crops, and the performance of these crops such as cotton, sesame, chickpeas, rice, and melon will generally be average to above average. The northern melon crop will be above last year and average. However, southern horticultural crops such as melons, watermelons, pomegranate, and grapes should be near average.
    • Cotton prices are expected to remain 30 to 40 percent below prices from last year, and below the five-year average.
    • Production of second crops will be above usual in areas that have already harvested winter crops and spring wheat as water availability and soil moisture remain good. However, in higher elevation areas where the initial wheat harvest has been delayed, many households will not have an opportunity to plant second crops. The reduced growing period will lead to low yields and lack of maturation before winter for some households that choose to plant second crops later in the season.
    • Labor opportunities for the harvest, for planting of second crops, for harvest of second crops, for weeding of second crops, and for planting of winter crops in the agricultural surplus-producing areas are expected to be the same as last year. Labor migrants from agricultural production deficit areas are expected to do not gain more wages than usual due to this low labor demand.
    • Above average volumes of in-kind payments for agricultural labor, average cash wages for agricultural labor, and good yields on rainfed, sharecropped land will allow landless households to stock adequate amounts of food this year during the October to December stocking period.
    • Livestock prices will remain at their current levels then seasonally increase in September and October as sales for Eid Qurban in late October begin. Better off households usually slaughter an animal on Eid Qurban.
    • Migrant laborers from Afghanistan currently living in Pakistan and Iran will continue to find some labor opportunities and provide remittances at seasonally normal times. However, the level of remittances from Iran will be less than average. However, the reduction will not lead to a total lack of remittances for remittance-dependent households.
    • Populations displaced by conflict, populations displaced by flooding or other natural disasters, and former refugees returning from Iran and Pakistan will not have access to enough humanitarian assistance.
    • The governments of Iran and Pakistan will not forcibly deport a large number of Afghan refugees, including those who lack refugee status identification documents, between July and December.
    • Military operations and civil insecurity will increase in many parts of Afghanistan throughout the scenario period. However, conflict will not be on a scale to significantly alter the ability of traders to serve markets throughout Afghanistan or that leads to a large number of newly displaced people. Conflict levels may reduce with the onset of winter in December.
    • The wet season is assumed to begin on-time around October and to have above-average precipitation through at least December, associated with the ongoing El Niño event.
    • Improved seed availability is expected to be below average and last year. MAIL and FAO have not secured any funding yet for purchasing and distribution of improved wheat seeds. The private companies producing improved wheat seed are also concern about their produced improved seed, they are afraid of not finding a good market for selling the produced improved seed. This problem can badly affect the planting process and the overall wheat harvest of next year.
    • With good irrigation water availability and near average precipitation, winter wheat planted area would likely be near average. Planted area for other winter crops such as barley and poppy would also likely be near average.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The main harvest has started in May, and will continue through September at the higher elevations. Most of the northern and western rural population still have food stocks remaining, and as the harvest comes in households will be able to replenish stocks. Some households will sell some grain, replenishing market supplies.

    With livestock prices largely favorable and a peak in demand for Ramadan in July, poor households should be able to procure their needed food. In Bamyan Province, over half of Afghanistan’s potatoes are produced, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL). MAIL estimates that potato income, starting in September this year, will increase by over 10 percent from last year. This is due to over 2,000 new potato storage facilities that have been built, allowing potato-selling households to stagger their sales and take advantage of seasonal variation in potato prices.

    The poorest households are likely to benefit from ongoing aid agencies’ cash or food voucher programs. In additions, some households benefit from the government’s new safety net programs.

    As a result of primarily normal, average seasonal progress and without large-scale shocks, food security outcomes are anticipated to be classified at Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in the vast majority of areas of Afghanistan. The Central Highlands and Northeastern regions are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2), as many poor households have entirely depleted food stocks and are awaiting the forthcoming wheat harvests in these areas. 


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET Afghanistan

    Accumulated Precipitation from October 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015

    Figure 2

    Accumulated Precipitation from October 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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