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Wheat flour crisis worsens in Afghanistan

KABUL, Jan 6 (KUNA) -- Owing to the shortage of wheat flour in Pakistan, residents of many areas in Afghanistan, including the central capital Kabul, are suffering from price hike of basic commodities and food shortage.
Afghanistan's southern, eastern, southeastern provinces and the central capital Kabul are mainly dependent on food import from Pakistan via its border towns of Peshawar and Quetta. However, the prices of daily commodities, especially wheat flour and cooking oil have suddenly jumped in the war-battered country as the authorities in Pakistan have stopped flour smuggling to Afghanistan via many illegal border crossings. Pointing to the crisis, an Afghan minister has sought help from the international community to avoid any food shortage in the country, especially its remote areas which have remained covered under snow with all linking routes blocked in the winter season. Mohammad Amin Farhang, Afghanistan's Minister for Commerce, has told journalists that his country is facing a shortage of wheat flour and the international community should increase wheat supply to the country to alleviate the looming crisis. Although Afghanistan is popular for its fresh and dry fruits, the country does not grow as much wheat to fulfill the requirements of a small fraction of its population, which mostly depends on rice and wheat flour. Both commodities are not grown in the landlocked country and are mostly imported from Pakistan or other neighbouring countries.
Although the rise in prices of wheat flour was also caused by the hike in prices in the international market, the situation in Afghanistan was the direct impact of the increase in prices of food items in Pakistan, the main route and supplier of food commodities, like wheat flour, rice, pulses, milk, cream and sugar to the war-battered country. The food crisis in the remote areas and districts where heavy snowfall falls in winter has almost become a regular event at this time of the year.
All available land routes to districts and villages in provinces like Badakhshan, Ghor, Panjshir, Kunar, Nuristan and some war-affected areas in the southern and southeastern zones are blocked by snow and supply of food and medicines have become a problem to those areas resulting in many deaths every year.
In recent months, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that mounting attacks on food convoys by Taliban were affecting smooth and timely supply of food items, warm clothes and medicines to the remote areas in Afghanistan. The FAO has requested the Taliban and the Afghan forces to halt military operations to ensure timely supply of the basis necessities of life areas which will be covered by snow and would be inaccessible for the coming three to four months.
According to locals, an 85 kilogram sack of flour, which was available for nearly 1,000 afghanis in Kabul three months back, has now shot up to 1,700 afghanis due to the recent crisis. But price of the same quantity of flour is nearly 2,500 in the remote and war-affected areas like Helmand, Zabul, and Uruzgan.
A US dollar is approximately equivalent to 50 afghanis.
These are the areas where the international forces and the Afghan police and army are involved with the resurging Taliban to curb their militancy and restore the writ of the Karzai-led government, which is faced with numerous problems, like security, price hike, unemployment, slow pace of reconstruction and non-availability of basic facilities of life such as clean drinking water, health, education, roads and electricity. (end) gk.rk KUNA 061017 Jan 08NNNN