Cereals production doubles in Afghanistan

Afghanis near cereals self-sufficiency

Afghanistan’s cereals production has doubled in the six years since the ouster of the Taliban regime, according to FAO’s latest production figures.

Despite the continuing tense security environment, FAO forecasts the country’s cereals output will reach 4.6million tonnes in 2007, more than twice the 2001 level of 2.0 million tonnes. This would represent a 700 000-tonne increase over 2006 production but a reduction of nearly the same amount from 2005’s near-record of 5.3 million tonnes.

On the basis of the harvest forecast, Afghanistan may need to import no more than 700 000 tonnes of cereals in the 2007/08 marketing season to cover its total requirements. Of this, 600 000 tonnes would come from commercial purchase on world markets, with the remainder provided as food aid. This compares with total cereal imports of some 1.5 million tonnes at the start of the decade, of which food aid accounted for more than 20 percent.

Development efforts

Afghanistan’s success with cereals stems largely from several consecutive years of generally favourable weather, but also from ongoing development efforts by a number of agencies and organizations, including FAO, which employs 400 staff in the country. Current projects include seed industry development, milk production, sugar industry rehabilitation, market information systems, food security and nutrition, bird flu prevention and poppy substitution.

FAO supported projects have already rehabilitated irrigation systems covering 350 000 hectares of cropland and increased milk production by 3 200 hectolitres per year.

Of special importance is the seed project, which benefits from €16 million of financing from the European Union over the 2003-2011 period, and which, building on previous emergency and rehabilitation interventions, has helped to create a commercial Afghani seed industry. In 2006 the sector produced 4,000 tonnes of seed – mostly high-yielding, disease-tolerant wheat seed. After two cropping seasons the private sector is now the leading producer of quality seed in Afghanistan. Varieties which FAO helped release now cover over 50 percent of wheat-growing areas.