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AFGHANISTAN: Low rainfall affecting agricultural production - FAO
Low precipitation and drought have failed rain-fed agriculture in Afghanistan and will also negatively impact irrigated agriculture production in 2008, FAO says
KABUL, 9 June 2008 (IRIN) - Low precipitation and drought have hit rain-fed agricultural production in Afghanistan and will cause a "significant" reduction in the country's agricultural output in 2008, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.
Afghanistan has about 1.5 million hectares of rain-fed agricultural land which accounted for 35 percent of the total 4.6 million tonnes of cereals (including wheat, beans, rice and maize) produced in 2007, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) reported.
Other agricultural production is generated by irrigation systems, many of which have been destroyed during wars and turmoil since 1979. However, there are still about 1.5 million hectares of irrigated land, which produced about 300,000 tonnes of grain last year.
"Production of cereals and other agricultural products in 2008 will decrease sharply," FAO said in a statement on 9 June in Kabul. "Given the latest months' price trends and unfavourable production prospects for wheat this year, the price of wheat is likely to increase further," it said.
The shortage of food in local markets will increase Afghans' dependency on imports and the main source of staples, Pakistan, has imposed an export ban. This could further drive up prices locally, making it even more difficult for poor people to get adequate food, according to Tekeste Ghebray Tekie, a FAO representative in Afghanistan.
"The low [domestic] wheat production this year will [also] aggravate the shortage of fodder and feed supplies," said Tekie, adding that livestock production in 2008 will be 10 percent lower than in the previous year. New appeal for aid
Immediately after food prices soared in November 2007 several UN agencies and Afghan government bodies conducted a joint vulnerability assessment to determine how many people were affected by rising prices.
The survey found that 2.55 million Afghans had been pushed into "high-risk" food-insecurity and were in need of a "safety net".
The survey prompted the UN and the Afghan government to request about US$80 million in order to provide food assistance to the affected communities until the end of June 2008.
Aid workers say food prices have steadily increased since December 2007 - when the vulnerability assessment was conducted - and more people have been pushed into high-risk food-insecurity.
To mitigate the impact of food prices and drought, aid agencies are planning to launch a fresh appeal. "In the coming days UN agencies will launch an appeal to support people who fall below the safety net," Tekie told IRIN.
The new appeal will follow the previous one which is facing implementation delays owing to insecurity and food export restrictions
imposed in regional counties.