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Wheat secure Afghanistan: Assessing priorities

By: Sharma, R.K.
Contributor(s): Habibi, H.K [coaut.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelArticlePublisher: 2012ISSN: No (Revista en electrónico); No. In: Wheat Information Service (eWIS) v. 115Summary: Afghanistan is facing major wheat shortage following a significantly reduced wheat harvest in 2011. Wheat is the primary staple food for most families and reduced wheat harvest affects human population by means of rising food prices and associated general price inflation. Wheat growing areas of Afghanistan received inadequate or ill-timed rain and snow, which led to heavy losses to wheat crop in general and to rainfed wheat crop in particular. Ministry has estimated this year?s wheat harvest to be around 3.25 million tonnes, a significant 28 percent less than the 4.5 of 2010. In a year with a normal harvest, most households in the northern rain-fed and irrigated wheat growing areas can produce enough wheat to sell in the market while still meeting their food needs throughout the year. However, due to the shortfall in production this year, the reliance on purchases will increase and income from wheat sales and on-farm labour will decrease. The poor harvest has already started taking its toll. During October third week, Northern provinces, the worst sufferer of drought had up to 50% higher wheat flour prices compared to same time last year (MAIL, 2011). Dry conditions have already affected income earning opportunities in northern Afghanistan and the central highlands because of reduced demand for farm labour. Afghanistan produced 4.5 million tons of wheat last year (more than 80 percent of the annual 5.2 million tons required nationwide), but failed to offer adequate wheat flour to urban markets, which are dominated by imported flour mainly from Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Wheat is the staple food in Afghanistan, accounting for approximately 60% of the caloric intake of the population. It also has the distinction of being Afghanistan?s major crop, accounting for roughly 70 percent of the cultivated land area (FAO, 2011). The country?s domestic production of wheat has never been sufficient for meeting demand nevertheless it is prone to great weather induced fluctuations (Fig. 1). Wheat imports from neighbouring countries have been required to meet the local demand. Approximately 45 percent of Afghanistan?s wheat acreage in a normal year is irrigated, accounting for about 70 percent of production. The remaining 55 percent of wheat acreage relies on timely rainfall and typically provides the remaining 30 percent of home production (Table 1). Winter snowfall in the mountain ranges of central Afghanistan supplies over 80 percent of the country?s annual precipitation. Snowmelt in the spring is the major source of irrigation water, running through rivers and streams that originate in the mountains. In 2009, the most bountiful rainfall in 32 years brought harvests that made Afghanistan nearly self?sufficient in cereals. The message was clear ? there is much agricultural potential in Afghanistan which irrigation could realise. However, the year also told us that even the best of the years did not help us produce enough to be self sufficient. With ever increasing population now touching 30 millions (Fig. 2) and increasing import bills to meet the growing demands, there is urgent need to increase productivity levels of the staple crop so that due attention and acreage is devoted to other important commodities as well. The import of agricultural produce by Afghanistan stood at whopping 792 million dollars during 2009 (FAO, 2011). Moreover, as of the day only about a quarter of Afghan agricultural land is now irrigated, and much of it inefficiently.Collection: CIMMYT Staff Publications Collection
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Afghanistan is facing major wheat shortage following a significantly reduced wheat harvest in 2011. Wheat is the primary staple food for most families and reduced wheat harvest affects human population by means of rising food prices and associated general price inflation. Wheat growing areas of Afghanistan received inadequate or ill-timed rain and snow, which led to heavy losses to wheat crop in general and to rainfed wheat crop in particular. Ministry has estimated this year?s wheat harvest to be around 3.25 million tonnes, a significant 28 percent less than the 4.5 of 2010. In a year with a normal harvest, most households in the northern rain-fed and irrigated wheat growing areas can produce enough wheat to sell in the market while still meeting their food needs throughout the year. However, due to the shortfall in production this year, the reliance on purchases will increase and income from wheat sales and on-farm labour will decrease. The poor harvest has already started taking its toll. During October third week, Northern provinces, the worst sufferer of drought had up to 50% higher wheat flour prices compared to same time last year (MAIL, 2011). Dry conditions have already affected income earning opportunities in northern Afghanistan and the central highlands because of reduced demand for farm labour. Afghanistan produced 4.5 million tons of wheat last year (more than 80 percent of the annual 5.2 million tons required nationwide), but failed to offer adequate wheat flour to urban markets, which are dominated by imported flour mainly from Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Wheat is the staple food in Afghanistan, accounting for approximately 60% of the caloric intake of the population. It also has the distinction of being Afghanistan?s major crop, accounting for roughly 70 percent of the cultivated land area (FAO, 2011). The country?s domestic production of wheat has never been sufficient for meeting demand nevertheless it is prone to great weather induced fluctuations (Fig. 1). Wheat imports from neighbouring countries have been required to meet the local demand. Approximately 45 percent of Afghanistan?s wheat acreage in a normal year is irrigated, accounting for about 70 percent of production. The remaining 55 percent of wheat acreage relies on timely rainfall and typically provides the remaining 30 percent of home production (Table 1). Winter snowfall in the mountain ranges of central Afghanistan supplies over 80 percent of the country?s annual precipitation. Snowmelt in the spring is the major source of irrigation water, running through rivers and streams that originate in the mountains. In 2009, the most bountiful rainfall in 32 years brought harvests that made Afghanistan nearly self?sufficient in cereals. The message was clear ? there is much agricultural potential in Afghanistan which irrigation could realise. However, the year also told us that even the best of the years did not help us produce enough to be self sufficient. With ever increasing population now touching 30 millions (Fig. 2) and increasing import bills to meet the growing demands, there is urgent need to increase productivity levels of the staple crop so that due attention and acreage is devoted to other important commodities as well. The import of agricultural produce by Afghanistan stood at whopping 792 million dollars during 2009 (FAO, 2011). Moreover, as of the day only about a quarter of Afghan agricultural land is now irrigated, and much of it inefficiently.

Global Wheat Program

English

Lucia Segura

INT3065

CIMMYT Staff Publications Collection

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