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Cablegate: Afghanistan - Additional Food Aid Needed

VZCZCXRO7256
PP RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHYG
DE RUEHBUL #3222/01 3510858
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160858Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6450
INFO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC 0705
RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KABUL 003222

DEPT FOR SCA/FO, SCA/RA, AND SCA/A
DEPT PASS AID/ANE
DEPT PASS USTR FOR GERBER AND KLEIN
DEPT PASS OPIC FOR ZAHNISER
DEPT PASS TDA FOR STEIN AND GREENIP
USOECD FOR ENERGY ATTACHE
CENTCOM FOR CSTC-A
NSC FOR JWOOD
TREASURY FOR LMCDONALD, ABAUKOL, BDAHL, AND MNUGENT
OSD FOR SHIVERS
COMMERCE FOR DEES, CHOPPIN, AND FONOVICH

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: EAGR EAID PGOV WFP AF
SUBJECT: AFGHANISTAN - ADDITIONAL FOOD AID NEEDED

REF: Macklin-Stoddard email of 12/5/08

1. (SBU) Summary and Action Recommendation. Total food aid from
international donors, combined with the Afghan government's wheat
purchases, adds up to only one-quarter of Afghanistan's wheat
production shortfall estimated at 2.5 million metric tons this year.
Commercial imports and smuggling will fill much of the gap, but the
shortfall is so big this year that there will still be many people
who need food. The World Food Program predicts there will be a
break in the food pipeline in April 2009, coinciding with the height
of the hunger season in Afghanistan. Post recommends that the FFP
program allocate another $100 million to prevent a break in the
pipeline and supply wheat for 8.8 million vulnerable Afghans during
April-June 2009. WFP reports good progress with its winter
pre-positioning effort, with 95 percent of the 36,000 mt of the
designated food stocks already delivered to destinations in the most
vulnerable areas. Insecurity and mountainous terrain have hampered
delivery of the balance, but the established mechanism for
requesting ISAF military support to protect food convoys in insecure
areas is operating adequately. End Summary

BACKGROUND

2. (U) Afghanistan consumes about 6 million metric tons (mt) of
wheat each year. It regularly produces less than it consumes and
makes up the difference largely through commercial wheat imports. A
severe drought made 2008 an especially bad year for Afghanistan's
wheat crop, with a production shortfall estimated at 2.5 million mt.
(Shortfalls are normally much smaller, in the range of 500,000 to 1
million mt.)

3. (U) Typically much of the shortfall is made up through wheat
purchases from neighboring countries. Higher prices here than
elsewhere in the region usually attract a lot of wheat, much of it
smuggled. While wheat prices have doubled since last year,
reflecting the poor harvest and world prices, the good news is that
prices have declined by about 20 percent from their recent peak,
indicating that there are adequate supplies in the market at present
for those with buying power.

STATUS OF WPF WINTER PRE-POSITIONING

4. (U) On December 1, WFP staff briefed the international community
on the status of the current Protracted Relief and Recovery
Operation (PRRO) and winter pre-positioning of food. The total WFP
2008 program is 387,000 metric tons (mt), 157,000 mt of this
provided with USG assistance. WFP is targeting wheat and other food
supplies to 8.8 million of the country's most vulnerable people. Of
this WFP total, 36,000 mt or less than 10 percent of the PRRO has
been planned for winter pre-positioning. This food is meant to
reach 520,000 recipients in 95 mountainous districts in 23 provinces
likely to be cut off by winter snows. According to WFP, about 95
percent of these pre-positioned supplies are now in place.

AFGHAN GOVERNMENT PURCHASES

5. (SBU) The Afghan government expects to spend $100 million on
wheat to help address the shortfall, purchasing up to 240,000 mt
from neighboring countries (e.g. Kazakhstan). We understand the
GIRoA intends to put 110,000 mt of this in a strategic grain
reserve. The rest is likely to be given away for free.
Unfortunately, GIRoA officials have provided few details on how they
will distribute this food. Distribution may be politically
motivated; i.e. the food may well not go to those the WFP regards as
the neediest.

MILITARY PROTECTION OF WFP CONVOYS

KABUL 00003222 002 OF 003

6. (SBU) Road insecurity and the challenge of inaccessible mountain
terrain have prevented the delivery of 400-500 mt of these critical
stocks to planned destinations, especially to insecure areas in
northern Herat, Dai Kundi and Baghdis provinces. A mechanism is in
place for WFP to request military support from ISAF to protect food
convoys, which begins with action by WFP local coordinators in the
provinces. This mechanism has been used several times since
September, and ISAF stands ready to consider further requests.
Also, WFP on December 10 requested ISAF airlift support to deliver
food to Jawand district in Badghis. The Charge on December 6 had
discussed with UN SRSG Kai Eide the likely need for additional
military support to protect food delivery convoys to vulnerable and
insecure areas, and Eide agreed to raise the matter with WFP.
(Note: ISAF units provide protection for food delivery convoys and
do not try to secure entire routes beyond the temporary security
needed to protect the convoy in question.)

AFGHAN FOOD NEEDS BEYOND MARCH 2009

7. (U) Beyond this winter, WFP reported a shortfall of $240 million
to cover the purchase of an additional 280,000 mt of food, to extend
distribution to the neediest beyond March through the rest of 2009.
Of this, WFP says 100,000 mt is needed during April-June.

8. (SBU) Bottom line: Total food aid from the international
community, combined with the Afghan government's wheat purchases,
adds up to only about one-quarter of the total shortfall. The
commercial market will fill much of the gap, but the shortfall this
year is such that there will still be many people who need food.
Because four to six months is needed from the time food assistance
is pledged until it is dispatched in Afghanistan, WFP predicts there
will be a break in the food pipeline in April 2009. This projected
break would coincide with the height of the hunger season in
Afghanistan, which is immediately before the winter wheat harvest in
late spring.

USG ACTION TO DATE

9. (U) As Washington agencies are aware, in 2008 the USG more than
doubled its food aid to Afghanistan through WFP, compared with our
contributions in 2007 or 2006. Our food is now reaching an
estimated 4.5 million poor Afghans out of the estimated total of 8.8
million in need. In 2008 the USG provided more than $50 million for
a seed and fertilizer voucher program, to get more winter wheat in
the ground quickly and boost next year's harvest.

10. (SBU) USAID is also now working to shift an additional $100
million in funding from other programs to provide additional help
with Afghanistan's food security needs; $50 million will go towards
cash-for-work programs, to boost the poor's purchasing power
(especially in urban areas); $50 million will be added to the
successful agricultural vouchers program, with the harvest from
these plantings starting in June. Embassy Kabul will encourage the
PRTs to provide additional and substantial resources for
cash-for-work programs, as soon as possible; these are excellent
ways to increase purchasing power and help address food needs.

ADDITIONAL EFFORTS BY THE U.S. MISSION

11. (U) Post will continue to work closely with WFP, the GIRoA, our
PRTs, and other donors to share information on food aid delivery
efforts and the government's food distribution plans. USAID will
also conduct an independent analysis of the food security situation,
based on data from three provinces -- Badghis, Ghor and Ghazni -- to
provide a broad view of conditions for food distribution. In
Badghis, despite poor security in vulnerable areas, WFP implementers

KABUL 00003222 003 OF 003


have reportedly been reluctant to use ISAF assets for security,
resulting in a disrupted distribution schedule. In Ghor, logistics
in accessing remote areas present problems for distribution of
pre-positioned food stores. In Ghazni, a concerted effort with PRT
and maneuver security forces has ensured delivery to vulnerable
districts. USAID staff will verify current food security
conditions, identify ongoing challenges to distribution, and propose
solutions. This spot-check analysis will be conducted in the next
three weeks with a report expected o/a January 5.

12. (U) Recognizing that the food security situation is dynamic,
USAID's Famine Early Warning Network (FEWSNET) will send a team to
Afghanistan to begin a food security assessment in January. The
team will prepare a report on national food security needs and the
impact of the WFP distribution programs, expected to be completed by
the end of February.

ACTION RECOMMENDATIONS

13. (SBU) With respect to questions raised refmail, Post believes
that given the progress to date in WFP's winter pre-positioning
effort and smooth operation of the existing mechanism for requesting
and providing ISAF protection, any issues of possible additional
military support for WFP convoys are best handled in country.
Further, military airdrops are often not effective at delivering
food to those who most need it but they remain an option that can be
implemented as permitted by operational requirements and available
resources.

14. (SBU) The key challenge here is making sure WFP's pipeline is
not broken in March/April, as feared. Post therefore recommends
that FFP allocate a further $100 million in additional food aid to
supply wheat via WFP for 8.8 million vulnerable people from
April-June, when the harvest begins. While we should also urge
other donors to increase their food aid pledges for 2008, 2009 and
beyond, their record to date suggests we should not expect a strong
response. The GIRoA does not have additional resources to buy food.
Beyond the obvious humanitarian aspect, the U.S. has a strong
interest in preventing hunger-related social unrest in the critical
pre-election period.

WOOD

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