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Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected across Afghanistan during the 2023 harvest and post-harvest periods. The areas of highest concern include the northern areas of the country, notably Samangan and Badghis provinces. Despite a third consecutive year of drought, the timing of rainfall distribution was more favorable for wheat production in 2023 compared to the past two years. Additionally, staple food prices have broadly declined, supporting improvements in household purchasing power. Consequently, food and income from the wheat harvest are expected to relatively improve food availability and access for millions of households, especially between June and September. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in most areas during this period, as households are able to meet their minimum food needs but continue to face difficulty meeting their essential non-food needs. During the October to January period, however, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to become widespread once again, particularly in northern areas where wheat and livestock production will only provide a few months of sufficient food.
The wheat harvest concluded as of late June across northeastern, central, and southeastern areas of the country at below-average levels due to poor rainfall during the wet season. In higher elevation areas, the harvest is ongoing or yet to start. Nationally, wheat production is expected to be below average, with the largest production deficits in the northern and northeastern areas of the country. While production is likely to be below average, it is expected to be higher than last year, associated with the somewhat acceptable rainfall distribution, and households in southern Afghanistan replaced poppy production with wheat. The below-average snowfall and early snow melt result in low water availability from irrigation for second-season crops. Production of second-season crops like maize and rice is likely below normal.
Pasture availability across much of the country is below average. Pasture availability is most limited in northern parts of the country, where the third consecutive drought is ongoing. Many livestock-holding households, particularly in the north, are struggling to find sufficient pasture and have started migrating to find pasture in the highlands atypically early. Typically, livestock prices increase with the Eid ul Azha holiday; however, this year, due to lower-than-normal livestock body conditions, notably in northern Afghanistan and atypically low demand, livestock prices did not rise as high or remained stable. However, overall, the amount of wheat a sheep can purchase is higher than at the same time last year, primarily driven by the declines in wheat prices.
Staple food prices have decreased in recent months due to the combination of stable market supply associated with the availability of the harvest and consistent imports from Kazakhstan and declines in global food and diesel prices. Wheat prices are 20 to 25 percent lower than the three-year average nationwide. As of June, the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC) food basket, comprised of wheat flour, lentils, rice, cooking oil, and salt, nationally, on average, was similar to May; however, it decreased by 25 percent since June 2022. While purchasing power has improved across the country, economic barriers still prevent many households from meeting their food and non-food needs.
Precipitation performance: The October 2022 to May 2023 season was marked by generally below-average precipitation across most parts of the country (Figure 1). Precipitation was among the worst on the historical record in northern parts of the country, where this season marked the third consecutive drought (Figure 2).
Based on key informants, precipitation deficits were not as severe in higher-elevation areas; however, limited agricultural production occurs in these areas.
The spring rainy season from March to May ended with below-average rainfall in northern, central, and western areas of the country (Figure 3).
Near-average rainfall was observed in the eastern, southern, and southeastern parts of the country.
Poor precipitation coupled with nearly three years of drought and above-average temperatures resulted in earlier than typical snowmelt run-off by four to eight weeks and depletion of snow water. This resulted in some flooding in areas of the country. The most notable flooding occurred in Nangarhar and Laghman provinces; however, available information indicates relatively minor damage due to flooding.
In June, snow water volumes in nearly all basins across the country are at below-average levels. Severe deficits of snow water volume were observed in western parts of the country, where 60 to 80 percent of average precipitation was observed this season.
Source: FEWS NET/USGS
Source: FEWS NET/USGS
Cropping conditions: The 2023 wheat harvest started in late May in the east and parts of the northeast and in June in lower-elevation areas across the rest of the country. The ongoing wheat harvest is likely below average nationally but better than the 2022 harvest. The harvest was negatively affected by the compounding impacts of three years of drought, notably in northern areas, along with localized flooding and Moroccan locusts. The dry conditions were most acute in northern Afghanistan, where local crop production is likely significantly below average. A favorable wheat harvest is likely in the southern region as wheat crops replaced poppy production with this region's wheat production, substantially contributing to national production. Average production is expected in high-elevation areas of the northeast, central highlands, and western parts of the country, where crops are yet to be harvested. According to key informants, crop conditions in these areas are favorable.
Flooding in Nangarhar and Laghman in early May damaged wheat and vegetable crops, driving production prospects slightly downward; however, production is still likely to be only slightly below average.
In addition to the adverse impacts of drought, eight out of 34 provinces in northern regions were negatively impacted by the
Moroccan locust infestation in May and June. According to key informants, wheat, peas, and sesame crops were negatively affected, with the level of damage varying from area to area based on the concentration and location of the locusts. In addition to crop damage, livestock fodder in some provinces was also damaged, negatively impacting the livestock sector. The eradication campaign by local communities with the support of relief agencies is underway. According to the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), 7,000 hectares (17,000 acres) of land have been treated chemically and manually.
The low level of water in basins limits water availability in most of the country for second-season crops predominately made of maize and rice. While water availability is of concern, farmers are still planting crops in areas where irrigated water is likely to be available. In areas where water is minimal, including Kunduz, Balkh, Baghlan, and Takhar provinces, the area planted for second-season cropping is much lower than normal.
Macroeconomy: Despite some modest improvements and stability in economic conditions, Afghanistan's economy generally remains poor after severe contracting in 2021. The removal of Afghanistan from the international banking community and low government revenue continues to result in liquidity challenges and limited government investment. Overall, household income-earning opportunities remain primarily informal, and low effective consumer demand for goods and services impedes the rebound of the private sector, reinforcing a cycle of anemic economic growth.
According to the latest available data from the World Bank and National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA), national annual headline inflation in May dropped to negative 2.8 percent (Figure 4).
Source: NSIA and World Bank
The drop in annual headline inflation is mainly due to the decrease in annual food inflation to -5.8 percent in April. The reduction in food inflation is driven by declines in global food prices, the stability of the Afghan Afghani (AFN), and the start of the harvest.
The AFN was broadly stable in 2023 due to tight currency controls, increased inflows of remittances, and availability of the USD due to continued UN cash shipments. The currency appreciated only 3.8 percent against the USD between late December 2022 and late June 2023. Additionally, the Central Bank relaxed the weekly withdrawal limits set pre-August 2021 for individuals. As of May, individuals can now withdraw up to 50,000 AFN weekly. While individuals can withdraw more cash from banks, most still withdraw amounts lower than the legal limits. Furthermore, this policy mainly impacts employees with official or regular salaries, not daily laborers working in the cash market, predominately the poor, who rely on casual labor.
Government revenue increased in the first three months of 2023 to slightly higher levels than in 2021 and 2022. Government revenue for the first quarter of 2023 was at 45 billion AFN, about 8 percent higher than for the same period last year. The government earns income predominately through taxes collected at the Afghan border from the movement of goods, including coal.
The price of diesel declined over the first two quarters of the year, supporting the decline in transportation costs and facilitating the movement of goods. Fuel is mainly imported to Afghanistan from Turkmenistan, which supplies approximately 75 percent of the country's needs. The decrease in diesel prices is attributable to lower crude oil prices in Turkmenistan, which declined to around 61 USD per barrel in June 2023 after peaking in May 2022 at 115 USD per barrel.
Imports and exports: Afghanistan heavily relies on food imports to meet its domestic food needs, primarily from Kazakhstan, Iran, and Pakistan. Since Kazakhstan lifted its export ban in September 2022, exports have resumed to normal levels, facilitated by the normal movement of goods and a favorable 2023 Kazakh wheat harvest. According to the World Bank, imports from January to April stood at 2.4 million USD, around a 25 percent increase from the same period in 2022.
Exports from Afghanistan to its neighbors are relatively higher than in recent years. Pakistan accounts for around 40 percent of Afghanistan's export value. A nearly 10 percent increase in total export value was reported from January to May 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. This rise in the export value is associated with an increase in the value of coal and textile exports. The value of vegetable exports to Pakistan is also important, especially for poor households, but currently, due to the low price of vegetables, overall revenue from this export is low.
Market supply: Despite economic constraints, the private sector can supply sufficient food and non-food items to support normal market supply. Essential food and non-food items are available across the country. The national wheat harvest has also contributed to supplying enough wheat grain and wheat flour to domestic markets.
Market prices: Nationally, staple food prices in June were generally near the three-year average and have been generally stable over the last couple of months as the wheat harvest has become available and market supply is normal. Wheat prices, on average nationally in June, are over 10 percent lower than in May and nearly 40 percent lower than at the same time last year (Figure 5).
In remote markets in the central and northeastern highlands, the prices of wheat and wheat flour are likely elevated due to late seasonal harvest, unfavorable road conditions, higher market demand, and higher transportation costs. In June, wheat prices in Daikundi were among the highest in the country where wheat prices are over 20 percent higher than in the rest of the country, primarily due to the increased dependence on imported goods, limited inflow of local production to the market, poor road network, and long distances that goods need to travel.
Rice for household consumption is predominately imported from Pakistan. While rice prices have been increasing since October in Pakistan due to the below-average harvest there, rice imports are predominately in USD, and with the stable AFN, price transmission from the high prices is low. As of June, imported high-quality rice prices were similar to the same period last year, while imported low-quality rice prices were 25 percent lower than in June 2022.
As of June, the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC) food basket, comprised of wheat flour, lentils, rice, cooking oil, and salt, nationally, on average, was similar to May. However, overall decreased by 25 percent since June 2022 (Figure 6). In Nangarhar and Paktika, the FSAC food basket prices significantly reduced by 19 percent and 10 percent compared to last month, attributable to seasonal improvement in access to food due to the harvest. In Ghor province, the FSAC basket was 7 percent higher than the national average as the harvest is yet to occur in this area.
Pasture and fodder availability: In June, pasture conditions in much of the country are lower than usual following the three consecutive droughts, with minimal pasture available for livestock in typical natural grazing areas (Figure 7). Pasture is somewhat unavailable in the lowland areas, notably in northern regions, due to the severe rainfall deficits in these areas. Pasture conditions and fodder availability in the highlands are comparatively better, leading many livestock owners to move their herds from lowland to highland grazing areas.
Source: FEWS NET/USGS
Livestock migration seeking better pasture conditions and fodder availability has already started from lower-elevation areas to higher-elevation areas, where grazing areas are still available, especially in the northern and northeastern parts of the country. Households often provide straw from their own harvests and concentrated animal feed; however, these resources are now limited due to the poor harvest and poor economy.
Livestock body conditions: Due to the adverse impacts of three consecutive years of drought and livestock diseases in some areas, livestock herd sizes are lower than normal across the country. While comparably better than last year due to relatively better pasture conditions and fodder availability, current livestock body conditions remain below average. Livestock herd sizes reduced due to atypical selling during the past years are below average. However, birthing rates have improved in comparison to last year. In the north, where livestock constitutes one of the primary income sources for most households, households lack fodder availability due to poor pasture conditions and poor production, resulting in declining livestock body conditions.
Livestock market supply and prices: During and leading up to the Eid ul Azha in June, livestock prices typically increase from increased livestock demand. However, this year for the holiday, despite sufficient market supply, livestock prices did not increase as typical due to below-average demand for the holiday period and poorer than normal livestock body conditions. This was primarily due to the insufficient purchasing power among households. Among livestock owners, they are selling their animals that were kept for market sales and are in decent condition, notably in northern Afghanistan.
According to WFP data, sheep prices in June were almost the same as last month and year. However, based on key informants and observations, livestock prices across species are higher than in 2022, although still below average. In Badghis, Bamyan, Samangan, and Faryab, where households rely heavily on livestock income, livestock prices decreased atypically by 10 to 20 percent during May. Still, those declines remained stable during June. According to key informants, reduced livestock prices resulted from poor livestock body conditions and low market demand.
As food prices have decreased and livestock prices remained stable, livestock to wheat terms of trade (ToT) improved nationally on average in June by 10 percent compared to May and are nearly 50 percent higher than in June 2022. While ToT has increased across the country overall, in some areas, ToT has declined. In Badghis, livestock ToT significantly dropped by nearly 25 percent compared from May to June and compared to the three-year average. The lower prices are associated with lower livestock prices related to poor livestock body conditions. Terms of trade also deteriorated in Faryab and Jawzjan by six to eight percent due to lower livestock prices than last month.
Labor income: Labor opportunities typically peak from April to September, as construction-related employment in urban areas and agricultural employment in rural areas increase. Despite expectations for a below-average harvest, agricultural labor opportunities have improved due to the harvest in the country's east, north, and southeastern parts. to the declines in available labor in the formal sector before August 2021, when the government changed, hundreds of thousands of households joined the informal labor market, increasing overall labor competition. Many households remain outside the labor market as the labor demand cannot keep up with the supply.
Despite seasonal improvements, available monitoring data indicates on average, nationally, 2.3 days of work per week were available in June. Generally, the number of days available to work is similar to the three-year average but over 20 percent higher than the same time in 2022. Subnational trends in June, some provinces such as Takhar, Hilmand, Kabul, and Kapisa observed an increase in available wage work opportunities compared to the same month last year. However, the decline in casual labor availability has been higher than usual in Badakhshan, Daikundi, and Uruzgan provinces as the economic environment negatively impacts casual labor, notably in the highlands. Moreover, more workers seek casual labor opportunities due to suppressed business activity in formal and non-labor informal sectors amid poor economic conditions. It is worth noting that with the Eid-ul-Adha in June, there was a notable increase in wage work opportunities.
Wage rates in June remained stable in recent months and compared to the average in June. Similarly, wage rates in June were similar to August 2021, when the government changed; however, due to the scarcity of casual labor opportunities, mainly concentrated in urban or semi-urban areas. Despite the slight increase in employment availability and stability, according to the World Bank, nominal and real wages have not significantly improved since November 2022. Taken together, while there have been some positive developments, such as slight improvements in wage rates and increased employment opportunities, household income from labor income is lower than average among those accessing income.
The labor-to-wheat grain ToT, a proxy for purchasing power, varies across the country. In June, the overall ToT is over 60 percent higher than in 2022, similar to June 2021. Assuming that the average household comprises eight people and purchases only wheat grain with their income, the food would last around three weeks. Although, at the provincial level, there is significant variation. In Kunar and Nuristan, a laborer can purchase only about 4.8 kilograms of wheat grain with a day's wage. For the average household of eight, this would provide only about 10 days of wheat for consumption. Other exceptions to the national trend include the Daikundi, Zabul, and Nimroz provinces, where the terms of trade are lower than in other provinces. In contrast, the ToT are better in provinces such as Takhar, Kapisa, Bamyan, Parwan, Ghor, and Farah provinces.
Assuming that the average household comprises eight people and purchases only wheat grain with their income, the 10.5 kgs of food would last around three weeks. Although, at the provincial level, there is significant variation. In Kunar and Nuristan, a laborer can purchase only about 4.8 kilograms of wheat grain with a day's wage. For the average household of eight, this would provide only about 10 days of wheat for consumption. Other exceptions to the national trend include the Daikundi, Zabul, and Nimroz provinces, where the terms of trade are lower than in other provinces. In contrast, the ToT are better in provinces such as Takhar, Kapisa, Bamyan, Parwan, Ghor, and Farah provinces.
Agricultural product sales: Typically, farmers supply vegetables and fruits, mainly melons and watermelons, from the south, north, and northeast to the main markets in the country and to Pakistan as an external market. Last year, due to a devastating flood in Pakistan, farmers in Afghanistan were able to make favorable incomes. But, currently, the prices of vegetable crops, mainly onions, potatoes, and tomatoes, are lower than average in Pakistan. This negatively impacts farmers' income from this source, with revenue from sales near average but lower than in 2022.
However, sufficient availability of fruits and vegetables positively contributes to household food consumption patterns from own production. The production of melons, primarily grown in northern and northeastern parts of the country, is adversely impacted by drought due to a water shortage for irrigation. As a result, in northern areas, income from this source is slightly below last year and well below the average level.
Remittances: Income from remittances and the importance of remittances as an income source is difficult to track as formal data is not collected, and often households are not always upfront in indicating the total income from this source due to security concerns. Available information from key informants, observations, and anecdotal reports suggests that the importance and reliance on remittances for income across Afghanistan has increased in the last few years. Most remittances are sourced from abroad, with cash flows from urban to rural areas uncommon.
Due to recent migration to Western countries and the deteriorating economy in Afghanistan, reliance on remittances from Western countries has significantly increased since August 2021, after the collapse of the government. Remittances from Western countries have remained stable in recent months, while they are well above average due to the large flux of people from Afghanistan to the West.
Remittances from most Gulf countries have remained stable over the past several years; however, remittances from Saudi Arabia decreased in recent months. More than a hundred thousand Afghan laborers have been working in Saudi Arabia for decades, sending money to families in Afghanistan. In April, the government of Saudi Arabia changed its policy on sponsoring Afghan migrants working in Saudi Arabia. The policy now includes some restrictions on migrants working in their field of expertise, limiting the ability for unskilled laborers to access employment in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, according to the new policy, Afghan labor migrants need to pay additional taxes to their sponsors. This has adversely impacted the income from this source.
According to IOM, as of April, a decrease in the total number of people movements, outflows, and inflows of Afghan migrants to Iran and Pakistan, has been observed with about a 20 percent decrease. Nearly all the cross-border movement is population moving to and from Pakistan, with few people moving to and from Iran. There is a decrease in the interest in people movement to Pakistan and Iran, partly due to the lower job opportunities in Pakistan. This results in lower-than-normal remittances from Pakistan and Iran, especially since visa restrictions make it difficult for Afghans to cross into Pakistan.
Conflict: After the takeover of the country by the Taliban in August 2021, widespread conflict has been at very low levels. While the current government's political and armed opponents are trying to destabilize the situation in localized areas of the country, no significant conflict or displacement has been reported.
Due to the stable security situation in the country, most displaced households have returned or planning to return to their place of origin and are currently engaged in the re-establishment of their livelihoods.
Humanitarian Assistance: The latest available data on humanitarian assistance distribution from May, indicate that WFP reached 4.7 million people with food assistance through in-kind and cash-based transfers. WFP distributed over 42,000 metric tonnes of food in May. Among beneficiaries receiving food assistance, most households receive a 75 percent ration. Aid distributions are at lower levels than in the last three years, mainly due to funding constraints. While food distributions are continuing as typical, there remain concerns about the levels of diversion and the ability of humanitarians to reach those most in need. Among the populations that receive assistance, food consumption gaps are mitigating food consumption deficits and possibly closing consumption deficits completely. Subnational food assistance data were unavailable at the time of this analysis to incorporate into FEWS NET's analysis.
Apart from WFP, other national and international humanitarian relief organizations continue to support the most vulnerable people affected by the recent drought and other dynamics of food insecurity in the country.
Nutrition: No recent and updated nutrition data was available at the time of the analysis. FEWS NET expects that as the harvest has become available and household access to income has improved, there has likely been an improvement in nutrition outcomes in most areas of the country. In northern areas of the country where the third consecutive drought is ongoing, notably in Samangan in the north and Badghis in the Western, nutrition outcomes are likely to be exacerbated by continued lack of access to safe drinking water and limited access to improved sanitation and health care centers, and the nutritional status of children under five continues to deteriorate. According to UNICEF, around 1.2 million children up to 29 months of age were screened in April to identify cases of acute malnutrition through mobile and fixed health facilities. Of the 1.2 million children screened, 48,805 were admitted for severe wasting treatment.
Current Food Security Outcomes
Millions of households in Afghanistan have improved food access, predominately in lower elevated areas, as the harvest has become available and income has increased. Households are also able to supplement their income with sales of cash crops, including melon and watermelon sales. Livestock-holding households, including pastoral and agropastoral households, have access to dairy products across much of the country; however, in northern areas of the country, milk access is low due to the drought conditions, lower than normal livestock body conditions, and atypically early livestock migration. Pastoral households are also accessing income from livestock sales. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are ongoing across lower-elevated rural and urban areas of the country. Many poor households can now meet their food; however, they continue to face difficulty meeting all of their non-food needs. This is mainly due to the continued low income earned.
Across the country, while the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and higher have declined, some populations continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. These populations have limited access to production from their own harvest and income from labor and remittances and few assets.
While there have been seasonal improvements across the country, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist in high elevated of the central and northeastern highlands, where prolonged drought and weak labor dynamics have continued to drive limited livelihood options, particularly in households trying to earn income in the labor and livestock sectors. Overall, income earned from these sources is insufficient for households to purchase their food needs.
Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
Source: FEWS NET
The most likely scenario from February to September 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:
- Nationally, wheat production will most likely be below average. Wheat production in northern, northeastern, and eastern parts is expected to be below average. However, favorable wheat production in the southern region as a replacement for poppy production will significantly contribute to national production.
- Given the likelihood of El Niño conditions continuing into 2024, October to January precipitation is most likely to be above average.
- Winter wheat planting, starting in late September and continuing through mid-December, is anticipated to be near average and similar to planting for the 2022/23 agricultural season.
- The second-season harvest starting in September is anticipated to be below average nationally, driven by lower-than-normal water availability associated with the below-average snow water volumes hindering crop development, notably in northern areas of the country.
- The Afghan economy is expected to continue to face some challenges, even though there have been some signs of stabilization in the economy. The economy has contracted and has reached a new norm, with a projected 2.0 to 2.4 percent GDP growth rate in 2023 and no anticipated improvement in per capita income, based on projections by the World Bank and other institutions.
- Headline inflation has eased in early to mid-2023, the negative inflationary trend is not expected to persist, and the headline inflation rate is likely to hover around zero for the projection period. The low annual headline inflation rate is primarily anticipated due to a reduction in international food and fuel prices, the availability of the harvest, stabilization of the AFN, and easing of market demand associated with the harvest.
- Imports of wheat flour from Kazakhstan are expected to be at normal levels and to support normal wheat supply within Afghanistan due to the favorable wheat harvest in Kazakhstan.
- Staple food prices are expected to be stable and hovering near average, supported by a steady market wheat supply.
- In northern and western areas of the country, horticulture crops, including grapes, pomegranates, and apples, were adversely impacted by freezing spring temperatures during the flowering stage, resulting in lower-than-normal production. In the rest of the country, an average harvest from these crops is expected.
- Income from the sale of horticulture crops and vegetables will most likely be lower than the five-year average but slightly better than last year. This is driven by the higher investment from farmers for fuel and water and lower-than-normal prices for these crops. Income from these crops is expected to be lower in northern and western areas compared to the rest of the country due to the drought and freezing temperatures, which negatively impacted crop yields.
- Pasture availability is expected to be lower than normal but largely sufficient for livestock consumption through at least September, except in northern areas of the country, where pasture is expected to be limited due to drought conditions. With the onset of winter in late 2023, pasture is not likely to be available, as is typical. In northern areas starting in June, households will most likely feed straw, animal feed, and crop residue, as available, to their livestock.
- Body conditions of livestock are expected to be normal to fair throughout the projection period; however, among poorer households with limited ability to provide financial support to their livestock, especially in northern areas of the country, body conditions are expected to decline moderately. This is due to the higher prices of straw and animal feed.
- Livestock production and productivity will most likely peak seasonally, as typical, in August/September for sheep, with near-normal levels of milk production per animal. However, productivity among livestock is expected to be lower than normal during this time in the country's northern areas. Milk production and availability per household are expected to be lower than normal due to reduced livestock holdings per household associated with the multiple years of drought. Some milk production is expected in late 2023 and early 2024, which is expected to be lower than typical per livestock and household due to the expected declines in pasture and feed availability.
- Livestock prices are expected to be near average nationally but vary subnationally based on livestock body conditions. Throughout the projection period, livestock prices are anticipated to remain stable.
- Agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be available at below-average levels from June to September due to the lingering impacts of drought. In addition, due to the loss of formal employment, more people will be searching for agricultural employment opportunities, driving high labor supply and lowering wage labor rates. Lastly, better-off households are likely to hire fewer workers due to lower-than-average payment power, driving wages down further. As a result, even for those who access agricultural labor opportunities, income from this source will be lower than normal.
- Due to the poor economy and macroeconomic challenges, casual labor opportunities will likely be below average. Lack of construction work and a higher unemployment rate paves the ground for higher competition for already limited casual labor opportunities. A slight seasonal improvement is anticipated from June to September, but labor opportunities and income from this source will likely remain below average.
- Remittances from Iran and Pakistan are expected to be lower than last year and the average due to currently limited labor opportunities in Iran and political pressures on Afghan labor migrants in Iran. Remittances from Western and most Gulf countries are expected to be above average. Due to income losses in the formal and informal sectors, poor household reliance on remittances as an income source is expected to be higher than normal.
- Typically, food assistance distributions decrease in the spring and summer months in Afghanistan as the harvest becomes available in lower-elevation areas in March and higher-elevation areas in September, then scale up in October through the winter months. Humanitarian assistance distributions are expected throughout the scenario period. During the entire scenario period, humanitarian assistance distributions are likely to continue. However, based on historical trends, there will likely be some level of distribution and scale-up of assistance distributions as the lean season approaches from October to January. At the time of this analysis, information was not available on the expected levels of food assistance distributions or available at a sub-national level.
- Conflict will continue at low levels, with conflict events concentrated in urban areas. Conflict will result in some disruptions to market and livelihood activities in these areas; however, these are expected to be short-lived, with minimal impacts on household access to food and income.
- Based on the political situation, conflict-induced displacement is likely to be low. Nationally, the displaced population is anticipated to decline during the projection period as households return to their area of origin to access income-earning activities and fields for land preparation during the spring.
Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes
Overall, acute food insecurity conditions from June to September are expected to improve in much of the country, notably in the high-elevated areas. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to be widespread across the country as many households have access to food from their own production or sufficient income to meet their food needs. While households are able to meet their food needs, they are expected to face difficulty meeting all of their non-food needs. Furthermore, it is anticipated that some households are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely among households who have no access to land for production and low access to income through labor activities. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in Badghis and Samanagan provinces due to low food and income access from crop production and livestock associated with the third-consecutive drought. Households in these provinces are expected to have a harvest that is likely to only last a maximum of two months and will be consumed by August. Additionally, in these provinces, reliance on income from livestock is high, and terms of trade are likely to remain insufficient for households to purchase sufficient wheat to meet their food needs. While food security conditions are expected to improve, food assistance needs are expected to remain above average.
From October 2023 to January 2024, food security in northern areas and the central and northeastern highlands is likely to decline as households consume their harvest, and income-earning opportunities fall with the onset of winter, reducing household purchasing power. In northern Afghanistan, where the third-consecutive drought occurred, households will face increasing difficulty accessing food. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely across these areas. Households will likely consume food from their own production in the northern areas through September. In the higher elevated areas where the harvest doesn't start until August/September, households will only have food for consumption for a few months and will start storing food for the winter.
Additionally, income from both livestock and labor is expected to be below average, driving difficulty in households accessing market foods to meet their food needs. While the lean season is approaching, the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes will likely increase through at least January 2024. Additionally, it is likely that across areas facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3), some households are likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. These are entirely landless households with minimal assets and the ability to earn income from labor or livestock. In the rest of rural areas across the country, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely as households can meet their food needs by consuming their own foods, and household purchasing power is generally stable for households.
In most urban parts of the country, casual labor-dependent households' access to income is expected to improve from June to September seasonally. This, coupled with stable food prices, will likely drive improvements in food access. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely across most urban areas. From October to January, an increasing number of households are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as the lean season progresses and the availability of income and food from typical sources declines. This is likely to result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes at the area level in most urban areas.
Events that Might Change the Outlook
Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario
Impact on food security outcomes
Scale up of Humanitarian assistance
Humanitarians have low funding levels and are concerned about the ability to assist beyond October. Typically humanitarians scale up assistance as the lean season and winter months begin. If humanitarians are unable to scale up assistance, this will increase food consumption deficits among households.
Spike in the price of food commodities due to the Russia-Ukraine war
In Afghanistan, the stability of wheat flour prices is driven by the stable supply from Kazakhstan and Russia to Kazakhstan. If there are political changes related to the Russia-Ukraine war and if Kazakhstan imposes a ban on wheat exports to Central Asian countries, the wheat flour/grain prices will increase. This would limit food access for poor households, especially during the lean season, increasing food assistance needs.
Source: FEWS NET
Samangan province in Afghanistan is strategically located on the main trading route between major cities, but a large part of the province remains isolated and underdeveloped. The traditional agricultural sector used to be dominated by cattle, wheat, maize, and cotton, but there is now an increasing focus on potato, fodder, and vegetable crops.
The province is mountainous, with predominantly rainfed agriculture, and most households cultivate barley and sesame on small to moderately-sized plots. Cattle, goats, and sheep are owned by most households, with the number varying according to wealth. Household production and earnings from farming are typically sufficient to cover household needs, with grains such as wheat, barley, and maize produced for consumption and wheat, pulses, and jeera cultivated as cash crops. Poor households often have limited access to land and rely on sharecropping to access land for production.
Coal mining is an additional source of livelihood income in Samangan province, particularly in the Dara Suf district. Although the major benefits of coal mining go to the Taliban government, local people and some laborers from other provinces also benefit from the income generated. However, according to key informants, the availability of wage work and cash income from coal mining has decreased significantly compared to last year due to a significant reduction in coal exports to Pakistan. Despite this decrease, coal mining remains a source of income for poor households in the province.
Based on key informants, this province has received 60 to 80 percent of the cumulative rainfall compared to the average. However, the precipitation was not widely spread, and it only hit the higher-elevation areas of this province. Although the planted area was near average, most wheat crops started wilting due to a lack of rainfall in early May.
Wheat is the primary crop produced in all six districts of Samangan province, and harvesting starts by June for both rainfed and irrigated lands. However, key informants estimate that about half of rainfed crops have been adversely impacted due to three consecutive years of drought. While the harvest is ongoing, it is likely to be significantly below average. The wheat harvest from irrigated crops for this vulnerable group is also expected to be limited due to a lack of water for irrigation during the season and some limited impacts from the Moroccan locust infestation, which has been controlled. The overall production will be well below average, with household output lasting one to two months instead of the typical four to five months.
Three consecutive years of drought have resulted in very poor pasture availability. Poor pasture conditions during essential spring months and low household purchasing power for buying fodder have led to lower-than-normal livestock body conditions. This is likely to have significant implications for the livestock sector, a crucial source of income and food for many households in the area. Despite typical livestock migration to areas where pasture is available, sales during June are a key income source for many households.
Due to the impacts of drought, most of the natural water resources, such as wells and water points, have dried up, resulting in a serious shortage of drinking water for households and animals. While the warmer temperatures have led to earlier snow melting in upper areas during May and June, which has become a source of drinking water for humans and livestock, this water is unsafe for human consumption. Moreover, the availability of water in rivers and springs is also expected to decrease significantly as the snow melting is set to finish in a couple of weeks.
Supplies of imported food commodities such as wheat flour, rice, and oil, as well as locally produced vegetables and fruits from nearby provinces, are flowing normally, with prices varying seasonally. Given the harvest timing and regular flow of imports, the prices of locally produced staple foods such as wheat in the provincial capital are similar to the average of the previous three years, with a 10 percent decrease compared to last month and a 22 percent decrease compared to the same time last year. In contrast, the prices of imported staple foods such as rice indicate a 23 percent increase compared to the three-year average and a seven percent increase compared to the same time last year. However, according to key informants, the prices in rural markets outside the capital are significantly higher than average due to high transportation costs and impassable road conditions. Although physical access to markets is possible throughout the province in June, households are facing financial limitations and have poor purchasing power due to the drought and associated economic shocks.
Households in June are consuming food from their own production in June and supplementing any food needs through market purchases. Overall, market food supply and function are not facing major challenges. Households can only meet their food needs for a short time. However, households are not able to meet all of their non-food needs due to the low purchasing power and ability to access food. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are ongoing.
In addition to the assumptions in the national overview, the following assumptions apply for the June 2023 to January 2024 most likely scenario:
- Staple food prices are expected to remain stable throughout the season. Physical access to the market and imported food supplies are anticipated to be normal from June to August.
- Due to below-average water availability in water basins and freezing temperatures in early spring that adversely impacted the horticulture crops, the output from this source is expected to be significantly below average.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
Due to a combination of negative factors, including a decreased rainfed harvest, a significant decrease in livestock numbers, and poor livestock conditions due to limited pasture and fodder availability, Samangan province is expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the projection period. While households may be able to access some wage work during this period, income from these sources is expected to be insufficient to fill household food consumption deficits. Additionally, remittances from family members who migrated to Iran are expected to be atypically low.
From October to January 2024, the food security situation in this province is expected to deteriorate further as the level of income will most likely be insufficient to prevent deficits altogether. Some households may resort to selling off their livestock and migrating to neighboring provinces and districts to access food. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected.
Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Afghanistan Food Security Outlook June 2023 to January 2024: Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected in areas where wheat production is low, 2023.
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.