Snow, fuel and food in the mix

An increase in fuel prices and winter-related road blockages in different parts of Afghanistan are driving up food prices, despite a bumper 2009 wheat harvest, according to Kabul traders.



Petrol, heating oil and propane gas have gone up at least 10 percent over the past three weeks, they say.



“Food prices are linked to fuel prices and whenever fuel is high in the market food is also expensive,” said Sulaiman Mahmoodi, a vendor in Kabul’s main food market. He said wheat flour, cooking oil and rice had gone up 5-10 percent since the rise in fuel prices.



Afghanistan imports fuel mostly from Iran and Turkmenistan. However, its transportation around the country has become expensive and dangerous with the threat of attacks by Taliban insurgents.



Furthermore, roads to several districts in Bamyan, Badakhshan and Daykundi provinces have been blocked due to early snowfall, according to the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA).



“Access to about 10 districts in Badakhshan has been cut off due to early snowfall,” Sayed Nasir Hemat, provincial director of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, told IRIN.

 

“When roads close in winter the price of everything increases dramatically and those people who have not stored food appropriately face hunger,” said Hemat, adding that the government and aid agencies must deliver aid to people in inaccessible areas.














Photo: Feroz Noman/IRIN
Fuel and gas prices have increased by 10 percent in less than a month

Abdul Matin Edrak, the director of ANDMA, told IRIN the government was working to keep roads open, distribute food and evacuate people as necessary.



Bumper harvest



Afghanistan’s food security situation has improved somewhat owing to a very good 2009 harvest, according to the Famine Early Warning System of the US Agency for International Development.



Drought led to a poor harvest in 2008, but this year over five million tons of wheat was produced - enough to meet about 90 percent of domestic requirements, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL).



“Food is available in the country but access to food by all people is a problem linked to poverty and the overall economic conditions in the country,” MAIL spokesman Majidullah Qarar told IRIN.



About nine million of the country’s 25 million people are living on less than a dollar a day, according to a December 2009 national risk and vulnerability assessment.



Qarar said the government had almost finished stockpiling 100,000 tons of wheat in five locations for distribution in an emergency.



Food aid pledges from India and other countries, as well as UN World Food Programme aid are designed to help the most food insecure.



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