Afghanistan will reap its largest cereal harvest on record this year thanks to good rainfall and better access to seeds and fertilizers, but many households will still need humanitarian assistance as they continue to suffer the impact of a severe drought and two decades of civil strife, two UN food agencies reported today.
“We knew the harvest would be large this year but this breaks all records,” said Henri Josserand, head of the Global Early Warning System of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which carried out a joint survey with the World Food Programme (WFP). “We are looking at a crop that will be 50 per cent larger than last year’s.”
According to the report, the bumper crop of 5.37 million tons of cereals is also the result of Afghan farmers planting more wheat. The overall area planted with rainfed wheat has increased by more than 77 per cent from the previous year. A successful locust control campaign in the north of the country was also beneficial.
The abundant harvest means that Afghanistan’s import requirement for the marketing year of July 2003 to June 2004 will only be about 400,000 tons, only about a quarter of last year’s needs.
Despite the expected record harvest, a considerable number of Afghans will continue to face food shortages and depend on humanitarian food assistance, the agencies warned, since over two decades of civil strife and a severe drought from 1999 to 2001 have devastated the country. The agencies may purchase food aid locally if sufficient surpluses are available.
“The joint FAO-WFP mission to the country shows that, despite better harvests, a timely and effective food intervention to assist the poorest of the population in helping them rebuild an asset base for their livelihood is essential” said Susana Rico, WFP country director.
Chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency disorders continue to be a major problem in Afghanistan; particularly hard hit are young children, women, refugees and people living in remote mountain areas.