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National wheat production is expected to be greater than the last two years

  • Special Report
  • Afghanistan
  • June 30, 2015
National wheat production is expected to be greater than the last two years

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Background and objectives
  • Methodology
  • Partners
    Key Messages
    • National wheat production in Afghanistan is likely to be above the last two years, due to relatively favorable weather and precipitation, which has resulted in increased cultivation of both rain-fed and irrigated wheat.

    • The recent winter wheat harvest in Pakistan and the upcoming spring wheat harvest in Kazakhstan are both expected to be sufficient to allow normal trade flows of wheat and wheat flour into Afghanistan, with stability in prices expected.

    • The incidence and severity of spring flooding has been less than last year, and the impact on national cereal harvests is expected to be minimal. However, floods have had significant adverse impact in valleys where they have taken place, particularly in parts of eastern Afghanistan.

    • Although agricultural production is expected to be greater than the last two years, many IDPs and returnees affected by conflict, as well as households affected by natural disasters including flash floods, frost, plant diseases, and pests, will experience acute food insecurity.

    • Although fluctuations in staple food prices have been minimal, reduced labor wages and livestock prices in some areas during the lean season have likely impacted the purchasing power of households who mostly rely on labor and livestock production for income and food access.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Although the 2014/2015 wet season started very slowly, the overall timing, frequency, and distribution of precipitation during the season was conducive to agricultural production. Accumulated precipitation from October 2014 to February 20th 2015 was below the long-term average (2002-2009) in most parts of the country, although above the previous year in most areas. In late February, large storms hit Afghanistan, bringing significant snow accumulation in higher elevation areas. The spring rains started on time in lower elevation areas in February, and continued with regular frequency and above-average accumulation into May. Although precipitation totals during the spring rains have been above-average, total accumulated precipitation for the October – May season remained below-average in nine provinces, and below the previous season in five provinces, particularly in northern and southern Afghanistan (Figure 2).

    As a result of favorable climate since February, temperatures have been slightly below-average, especially over the central highlands and the northeast. Below-average temperatures have helped preserve snowpack and at the same time allowed farmers to prepare more lands for cultivation.

    Area planted under wheat during the 2014/2015 season has been slightly greater in both irrigated and rainfed areas as compared to 2013/2014. The increased planted area on rainfed land is particularly located 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 some provinces in southern Afghanistan due to low precipitation.

    In terms of regional production, Pakistan is expected to harvest 26.955 million metric tons (MMT) of wheat, which is slightly higher than last year. In Kazakhstan, wheat production is expected to reach 17.2 million metric tons (MMT) of grain in 2015, the same as last year.

    In most areas, labor wages are currently lower than last year, with the exception of north-central and eastern regions, where they have increased, and in northeastern region, where they are similar to this time in 2014. In Badakhshan Province, however, wages have decreased as compared to last year. The terms of trade (ToT) between labor and wheat grain has deteriorated in six regions, while improved in eastern, northeastern and north-central regions. The decreased labor wages are primarily due to lower demand for construction labor as a result of the imminent withdrawal of the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), which has been an important factor leading to a reduction in investment in new construction.

    Regular spring rains not only provided favorable conditions for crops, but also led to good pasture conditions that have resulted in seasonally improved livestock health and helped maintain livestock prices above 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 ToT has improved in six regions (eastern, northeastern, northern, north-central, western, and central highlands) due to good livestock and pasture conditions, although it has deteriorated in three regions (southeastern, southwestern, and south-central). Sheep to wheat ToT has also deteriorated in Badakhshan, despite having improved in the other three provinces of the northeast region.

    The incidence and severity of spring flooding has been less than last year, and the impact on national cereal harvests is expected to be minimal. However, floods have had significant adverse impact in valleys where they occurred, particularly in some parts of eastern Afghanistan. Spring rains also caused flooding and some landslides. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), spring floods from May through June 15th killed 125 people and affected 46,830 people in 53 districts in 18 provinces. In total, 6,062 houses were damaged or destroyed. Floods have also destroyed or damaged standing crops at small scale in very localized areas.

    Overall, external food assistance in most areas that was observed or reported during the assessment was less than in 2014, mainly due to reduced funding and lack of resources. The limited resources are mainly prioritized for assisting acutely food insecure people.

    Rural households who rely on their own production will have greater stocks of staple foods and increased cash from crop sales due to improved harvests as compared to the previous two years in Afghanistan. Relatively stable food prices and normal supply of wheat and wheat flour from Pakistan and Kazakhstan are favorable factors for households who rely on market purchases. However, reduced labor wages and livestock prices in some areas during the lean season have likely impacted the purchasing power of households who mostly rely on labor and livestock production.

    Food Security Outlook

    With production from the wheat harvest between June and September expected to be greater than last year, most sources of food and income would be more available and at higher level than last year. The wheat harvest will increase food availability at the household level and drive down prices in markets. Wheat-producing households are likely to be able to store more stocks than last year for the 2015/2016 consumption year. Sharecroppers and agricultural laborers paid in-kind are likely to have more food than in the last two years.

    With adequate supplies of wheat and wheat flour likely to remain available from Kazakhstan and Pakistan, and the above-average domestic harvest, wheat and wheat flour prices are likely to remain mostly stable through September in rural Afghanistan, after which they may rise due to a seasonally increased demand for households and traders to purchase stocks for the coming winter and 2016 lean season.

    Abnormal frost due to below-average temperatures affected stone fruit and almond trees this year, particularly in parts of the northern region, including central Samangan Province. This is likely to cause loss of income from sales of almonds, peaches, and apricots due to expected low yields. However, the severity and extent of frost in these areas was limited, and assistance needs to help replace some of the lost income will be concentrated among relatively few households. The majority of affected households will be able to secure additional labor opportunities and other sources of income, such as the selling of other cash crops, to help purchase stocks for the coming winter and 2016 lean season.

    Livestock prices are likely to remain higher than last year in most parts of the country. With more money to purchase food, and/or higher stocks from households’ own production, the February to April 2016 lean season is likely to be less severe than usual. However, the typical seasonal reduction in dietary diversity for most poor and chronically food insecure households in the winter and lean season will still occur. In the West-Central Highlands Agro-pastoral livelihood zone, where last year’s harvest was significantly below-average  the wheat harvest in September and additional sources of income including migration for labor work opportunities during the poppy harvest in Helmand Province in May will likely increase income and food access, in the absence of additional shocks this season.

    Pastoral households’ economic access to food has already increased in most parts of the country due to higher livestock prices, particularly for sheep, while poor and landless households continue to depend primarily on agricultural labor wages, which are generally similar to last year, although with some variability across the country. This will provide similar or slightly lower economic access to food in some areas due to rising food prices in those locations. Labor wages are expected to seasonally increase in the coming months, and will be slightly higher than the seasonal average. Wages generally peak during the wheat harvest, when a laborer is likely to earn AFN 500 - 600 (USD 8.20 – 9.85) per day in northern wheat-growing areas. With the increase in planted area this year, labor demand will be higher during the harvest, further increasing wages.

    Conflicts, small-scale flooding, and crop diseases and pests are common shocks that were reported almost all over the country. Wheat rust was reported and observed in the eastern region, wheat smut was observed in north-central region, and frost in the western region. These factors may reduce yields to some extent in these areas. However, these shocks are limited in terms of area affected and severity. In most cases, they are not likely to prevent crops from reaching maturity or cause damage to the wheat grain.

    Internally displaced people (IDPs) and some returnees are likely to be acutely food insecure. The newly displaced IDPs are likely to require assistance, as many of them have lost their homes, access to land, and other assets. As of April 30 2015, there were 873,136 IDPs reported, including 205,980 that had been displaced in the past year. Returnees from Pakistan, particularly those who have been unable to return to their places of origin, are also likely to be acutely food insecure due to their limited access to secure livelihoods in their new locations. However, in some cases, these households have received some assistance for their return. At least 46,830 individuals were estimated to have been affected by floods and landslides across the country. These households have lost homes, assets, and crops, and will likely be acutely food insecure as many will be unable to harvest this year. Many of these households are already receiving assistance from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and humanitarian organizations.

    In Afghanistan, floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters in terms of human hardship and economic loss. As much as 80 percent of the damage related to all natural disasters (excluding droughts) is caused by floods and associated debris flows. Several factors contribute to flooding. Two key elements are intensity and duration of rainfall. Topography, soil conditions, and ground cover also play important roles. Most flash flooding is caused by slow-moving thunderstorms, thunderstorms repeatedly moving over the same area, or heavy rains from hurricanes and tropical storms. Floods, on the other hand, can be slow- or fast-rising, but generally develop over a period of hours or days.

    Forecasts do not anticipate abnormally heavy or long rains during the coming months, which will limit the extent of floods and flash flooding.

    Background and objectives

    Since 2008, the pre-harvest assessment - which has also been referred to as the food security appraisal in some years, has become a tool for filling the information needs for timely programming and decision-making regarding food insecurity response in Afghanistan.

    Similar to the previous pre-harvest assessments, the 2015 assessment’s primary purposes are to: i) pre-determine key areas of concern that may likely affect food security situation; ii) identify types of shocks that may cause acute food insecurity; and iii) perceive the status of upcoming wheat harvests.

    By undertaking the pre-harvest assessment, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL), the World Food Program (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) collaborate to provide information to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), as well as other stakeholders and donors to gain a greater understanding of the progress of the agricultural production season, including recent or potential shocks that are likely to impact food security over the coming consumption year. In cases where below-average production is expected, the pre-harvest assessment helps define which areas are most affected and in which areas further monitoring and investigation would be necessary to determine the likely severity and prevalence of acute food insecurity.

    Specific objectives:

    1. Observe standing crop conditions, current and potential shocks to crops, and stakeholders’ perceptions about 2015 harvests.
    2. Assess factors relevant to food access, including any changes in wages and availability of labor opportunities, as well as Terms of Trade (ToT) of labor to wheat, and sheep to wheat.

    In addition to its focus on domestic agricultural production, the assessment also provides information on other key determinants of food access from markets, especially major sources of income in rural areas such as livestock prices and agricultural labor wages. The assessment examines the livelihood options available to poor and food insecure households to better inform how humanitarian response can complement households’ existing livelihoods and coping strategies.


    The assessment has been conducted in 70 districts of all 34 provinces of Afghanistan during the last week of April and three weeks of May 2015 (Figure 3). In each province, two districts are covered - usually one district with intensive irrigated land and another primarily rain-fed. This year, due to the highly diverse livelihoods and high chronic levels of food insecurity in Badakhshan, four districts in this province were assessed. In each of the two selected districts, two communities/villages are surveyed – usually one is located on an upstream area that is likely to have better water access and another mostly in a downstream area. In total, 140 communities are covered.

    The assessment consists of three survey modules. The first module is for interviews with the Department of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock’s (DAIL) provincial offices, with a total of 34 questionnaires completed. The second module is for interviews with the staff of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations (UN) agencies, or other organizations working in humanitarian relief, development, or agriculture, with a total of 102 questionnaires completed. The third module is for community-level/village-level focus group discussions based on the rapid rural appraisal (RRA) methodology’s reliance on self-reporting by communities, with 280 questionnaires completed.

    Activities and Level of Effort:

    A combination of techniques were used in this assessment:

    1. Data collection. Data was collected from farmer focus groups, MAIL provincial departments, local NGOs, UN agencies, and district development councils. In addition, direct observation was used for verification of the collected data, and remote sensing data was matched with the ground situation. Data collection took place from April 25 to May 20, 2015.
    2. Trainings and workshops. In each region, training was provided to field monitors and data collectors where pre-harvest assessment objectives, methodology, and tools were explained in detail. This training included role plays with data collectors to familiarize them with the data collection techniques and assessment tools. 


    Please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for May 21 to 31, 2015, compared to the 2001-2010 average across Afghanista

    Figure 1

    The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) for May 21 to 31, 2015, compared to the 2001-2010 average across Afghanistan.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 2

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Precipitation from October 1, 2014 to June 20, 2015 compared to the 2002 to 2011 average

    Figure 3

    Precipitation from October 1, 2014 to June 20, 2015 compared to the 2002 to 2011 average

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Assessed areas, April and May 2015

    Figure 4

    Assessed areas, April and May 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Occasionally, FEWS NET will publish a Special Report that serves to provide an in-depth analysis of food security issues of particular concern that are not covered in FEWS NET’s regular monthly reporting. These reports may focus on a specific factor driving food security outcomes anywhere in the world during a specified period of time. For example, in 2019, FEWS NET produced a Special Report on widespread flooding in East Africa and its associated impacts on regional food security.

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