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Cost of wheat impacts Afghan households

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16 Jul 2011 - 11:18
author avatar
16 Jul 2011 - 11:18

WASHINGTON (PAN): The significant increase in food prices, especially that of wheat in 2007-08, has had a tremendous impact on food security in Afghan household, a recent US report said.

Afghan households coped with the sudden rise in food prices by cutting back on overall food consumption and, to a lesser extent, on calories consumed,” concluded the study “Wheat Flour Price Shocks and Household Food Security in Afghanistan (USDA).

The study found that households were able to buffer the effects of the wheat flour price shocks on calories consumed by changing the composition of their diets, moving away from micronutrient-rich foods, such as meat, fruits, and vegetables, toward grains.

According to USDA, the decline in household food security was felt in both rural and urban areas.

“Urban households made changes that led to large declines in food consumption, but were able to maintain calories by greatly reducing the diversity of their diets and buying cheaper foods. Rural households made changes that led to smaller declines in their food consumption and in the variety of foods they consumed, but relatively larger declines in calories,” it said.

“As the price of wheat flour increased, demand for wheat products was relatively steady in rural areas, but rose in urban areas,” said the USDA report, authored by Anna D’Souza.

With a long history of political instability and conflict, as well as weak infrastructure and mountainous terrain, Afghanistan is particularly vulnerable to economic and natural shocks, it said. During the 2007-08 period of high global food prices, the country experienced rapid increases in the prices of staple foods and other commodities due to a confluence of international and domestic factors.

For households that spend the majority of their budgets on food, the high prices led to a severe erosion of purchasing power, disproportionally affecting poor households. In this study, USDA investigated how increases in wheat flour prices affect measures of household well-being associated with food security in Afghanistan.

“Identifying food-insecure populations and their coping mechanisms can help national and local governments and aid agencies working in Afghanistan in designing interventions and responding to local needs during future periods of high food prices,” it said.


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