Prospects for the 1998 harvest in May/June remain uncertain, due mainly to ongoing fighting in the northern provinces which comprise some 40 percent of the countrys irrigated cereal and about 53 percent of its rainfed area. The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission that visited the country last June/July estimated the 1997 total cereal production at 3.66 million tonnes, 18 percent higher than the previous year. Following the recent earthquake which hit the Northern part of the country, the food situation is very tight in the affected areas. Relief assistance is urgently required in these areas. According to WFP, 30 000 Afghanis in the Takhar region will need relief food aid for the next three months, due to the loss of all food supplies, including livestock; a total of 1 500 tonnes of food is required to feed quake survivors. Since 9 February, WFP has started to provide food to affected population and plans to dispatch 20 convoys carrying 70 tonnes of food each, on average, from Tajikistan en route to the remote Afghan regions.
A consolidated Appeal for Assistance to Afghanistan was launched on 4 February 1998 for a total amount of US$ 153.5 million to cover the period January- December 1998. Main activities of the Appeal include agriculture, education, health, income g eneration activities, rehabilitation of physical infrastructure, relief and food aid.
Imports of cereals in 1997/98 are forecast at 710 000 tonnes, similar to last year, including an emergency food aid requirement of 170 000 tonnes.