Crop Income Projection for Afghanistan, 2010

by Gary A. Kuhn
September 21, 2010

1. Summary

Roots of Peace programs in Afghanistan focus on increasing income for rural farmers. To do this, Roots of Peace has been working with farmers to improve their current production and shifting farmers to higher market value crops. Higher market value crops, like perennial crops, on average return a net income 5 times that of grain crops. This is especially important as typical Afghan farmers have very small plots and must maximize their earnings potential with what little they have. If the Afghan farmers had larger plots and were able to mechanize their field crop cultivation, annual crops would be a viable alternative.Happy Grape Farmer

In Afghanistan a majority of the farmers grow annual crops with their irrigated small plots. Food security was crucial during the conflict years when food distribution was unreliable. The food markets have recovered and the necessity for each family to produce staples has diminished. Yet many farmers have not switched to the best crops. In Kandahar, a major grape and pomegranate producing province, 77%% of the farmers grow annual crops. In Helmand Province the number is over 90%.

This report summarizes our work to evaluate the economics of farmer options in Afghanistan. ROP programs seek to move farmers from lower value crops to higher value crops. Farmers need to understand their options from a climatic and economic viewpoint. The variance between crops and between varieties of a certain crop is dramatic. Selecting the right crop for the particular growing area will have a significant impact on the farmer’s net income. Markets fluctuate and prices change, making this an on‐going analysis for farmers. 2010 was no exception. The year showed a large price increase in poppies and stable prices for the other key crops.

  • Poppy prices up dramatically – now represent short‐term economic advantage over grain crops and some fruit trees, albeit an illicit opportunity.
  • Specific almond varieties represent large potential, wrong varieties have poor returns.
  • Introduced varieties of apples and cherries show good promise.

2. Report Methodology

This report focuses on potential income from the various species that are grown in this country as staples and as cash crops. The report is not a summary of the current income for farmers in Afghanistan from these various species. There is a marked difference between actual production in Afghanistan and potential production. In our last survey of grape farmers, a majority of the farmers did not implement the basic set of cultural practices. On a more technical level, there is only one tractor equipped with laser levelers and seed plugging attachments in Afghanistan. This is a proven method to increase yields for most field crops. As for tree crops, all species have peak producing years, then their production tails off to a fraction of their potential. Like any living organism, they have their prime years. Studies of almond trees in California (nonpareil variety) show it is best to replant your almond orchard after 20‐25 years. With the exception of the tree plantings over the last 5 years, almost every fruit tree in Afghanistan is 32 years or older, with most much older. Therefore farmers in Afghanistan have an opportunity to increase their income potential through best practices, current technology and orchard renewal.

This information is then used by our teams to educate farmers participating in Roots of Peace programs throughout the country. These farmers are being given an opportunity to change crops from their current, mostly grain crops, to higher market value crops.

We have attempted to provide the most objective comparison between the varying crops. Included are all costs necessary to produce a harvest for sale at the farm. Costs that the farmer would normally do himself are reflected in the costs. Actual cash in the farmer’s hands after harvest for these crops most likely will be higher than the projection, provided best practices are implemented by the farmer.

3. Net Income Comparison

The table below summarizes the net income for 1 hectare of land in mature production with good cultural practices and inputs. This represents the potential for these crops, not necessarily the current average production and income from these crops in Afghanistan.

Perennial crops continue to lead as the high market value crops with the field crops trailing behind. With the reduction in production of opium, prices have reversed their downward trend and are now climbing. This change has pushed up the net income of opium to higher levels than licit field crops and a few perennial crops. Opium prices have experienced large swings, whereas vegetable and perennial crops have been fairly stable. The opium price, like all crops in this report, reflects the price at harvest time. Opium was harvested in Helmand in early May this year. The price has climbed since. Afghan Farmer Net Income PotentialThe almost two-fold increase in Opium prices pushed returns above $4,000, higher than some perennial crops. Net income in 2009 was a meager $433 per hectare. Spot prices in Musaqala, Helmand reached $268 per kg, which is near the all time high of $301 per kg set in 2001. This price jump was in reaction to the reduced production last season. Production was down due to a number of factors, including a blight that was spread by aphids. Prices of most of these crops in the comparison below climb after harvest period. To make a consistent comparison, we use the harvest period price. The extreme volatility in the projected return from opium is in contrast to the more predictable vegetable and perennial crops. Wheat prices continue to recede from their high in 2008.

The table following provides net income on specific crops.

Annual Net Income Forcast - 2010Poppy price history is shown below. Opium prices historically have been in the $35•$40 per kg range until the early Taliban when production was stifled. Production then rose steadily, depressing prices through 2009. Reduced production has pushed prices steadily upwards starting late last year.

Fresh Opium Farm-Gate Prices4. Details on Net Income Potential

Below is the table for the selected field crops. This comparison is for one hectare. Prices reflect farm gate prices during harvest season. Yields reflect potential harvest with best practices implemented.

Income Project Detail for Fields CropsThis table provides the income analysis on selected fruit and nut crops grown in Afghanistan. This is for 1 hectare. Yields reflect potential harvest with best practices implemented. Prices are during harvest time.

Projected Income for Perennial CropsNotes:
[1] Roots of Peace surveyed vineyards before and after trellising. After 2 years, trellised vineyards yield increased 107%.
[2] 100% growers in Kandahar and 72% growers in Helmand pay “taxes” or usher to AGE, government officials and religious leaders. The majority of ushr•paying farmers pay approximately 10 per cent of their income from cultivation in taxes. These taxes are paid to one or more sources, such as district administrators, local commanders, mullahs, security commanders or anti•Government elements including the Taliban. The majority share goes to mullahs, the Taliban and local commanders. Source: UN ODC Afghanistan Opium Winter Rapid Assessment Survey, February 2008.
[3] Packaging for harvest is not included in any of these calculations as traders typically cover these costs.
[4] Exchange rate •$1 = 44.62 Afs
[5] Some crop yields are reduced for regional problems. Apples are reduced by 10% for Codling moth and pomegranate harvest is reduced by 10% for splits
[6] Apple yield estimate was increased over 2009. Original estimate was for “local” varieties. The new yield estimate if for the new variety, Blushing Golden.
[7] Prices for apples represent 2009 pricing as the apple season had not started as of the date of this article in 2010.

5. Sources of Information & Approach

The survey compares all crops at farm gate in a harvested state, ready for sale. Even though some crops are harvested by trader’s employees, we included the cost of harvesting in all cost estimates to make a valid comparison. Roots of Peace has agriculture teams in every major production area in Afghanistan. These teams are made up of technical production advisors and market development advisors. Currently Roots of Peace team includes over 500 people employed to support high value Afghan agriculture. We work directly with over 60,000 lead farmers and over 50 leading traders. A majority of the information in this report came directly from our field teams.


This survey focuses entirely on net income as opposed to gross income. Our focus is not the macro-economic analysis of agriculture in Afghanistan. Rather we are focused on a micro-economic scope, focused on the farmer. We are focused on what the farmer will feel in his pocket. The second reason is that each crop has differing cost characteristics. Some tree crops have very low labor content and low overall costs, while other, like opium, have large labor costs. The best comparison includes these costs. Gross income is well suited for macro•economic evaluation. This report is focused at the farm level.


The ROP team collected information on current prices from the traders we work with, from spot checks in key markets to actual farm gate transactions. We verify our information versus price reports from other sources. ROP programs include marketing activities for all the major crops. Therefore we can directly access real trade data from the fifty traders we support. The prices we use represent prices during the peak times of harvest, not early or late pricing. The prices reflect current season prices, except late season crops like apples. For apples we used the previous season price


Yields in Afghanistan vary over a wide range. An overwhelming majority of the trees growing in Afghan orchards are well beyond their prime producing years. In most cases the trees were planted before 1978, the last peaceful year in the country. That means the youngest of the current producing trees are 32 years old with most well into their 40s and 50s. This is very old in a tree life. Combined with less than optimal cultural practices and farmers have yields that are well off the potential.

Yields listed in the analysis are what is the potential for each crop, given vibrant trees and best practices for orchard care. This yield is used instead of an average current production since this more closely represents the farmer options in deciding upon the best crop alternative. Farmers with our programs and other NGOs will plant new healthy trees and will be trained with the best practices, so these higher yields are the most likely scenario. The key here is that achieving the potential yields do depend upon good training. Simply delivering new trees will not produce vibrant orchards.


Differences between variety selections are important. Planting commercial varieties are key. By commercial varieties, we mean varieties that are in demand within the South Asia region and command a premium price over other varieties and have the ability to be packed and shipped. To illustrate the differences in the varieties, here are the more popular varieties of Afghan almonds. Satarbai Mamakhail price is almost three times higher than the price of Abdul Wahidi.

Farm Gate Price for Almond VarietiesCOSTS

The ROP team evaluated current prices in the markets and in the production zones. We averaged costs for the country and did not attempt to regionalize costs even though some of these crops only grow in certain regions. We used one price for products across all crops, e.g., one cost for DAP for all crops. The prices were assessed in July and August. In some cases certain prices do in fact vary by region, like Ushr or “local taxes.” We chose to establish a single rate and apply it uniformly across all crops.


We have adjusted yields on specific crops due to known conditions in Afghanistan. An example is Codling Moth infestations ravage apply yields. With best practices using organic methods, the impact can be reduced to 10% loss. We reduced the crop yields for apples by 10%. Pomegranates are another example. We reduced pomegranate yields by 10% for splits.


This publication was produced by the ROP team in addition to the normal activities supporting deliverables of the programs we implement.

Referenced Publications

Afghan Almond Industry Development Organization
Almonds of Afghanistan, 2009.

Altai Consulting
“Market Sector Assessment in Horticulture,” for the Afghan Ministry of Commerce and UNDP Afghanistan, 2004.

Brown, Thomas
USAID ASAP Program, “Fresh Fruit Export Pilot to Delhi, India”, November 2007.

Chabot, Philippe
US Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agriculture Service, “Comparing Gross Revenues for Nuts and Dried Fruits in California and Opium Poppy in Afghanistan: A Review of Available Data”, May 2009.

FAO, Natural Resources and Environmental Department

Mansfield, David
“Beyond the Metrics: Understanding the Nature of Change in the Rural Livelihoods of
Opium Poppy Growing Households in the 2006/07 Growing Season”, A Report for the Afghan Drugs Inter Departmental Unit of the UK Government”, May 2007.

Roots of Peace
RAMP Grape Program Report, Shamali Trellis Survey, 2006.

Roots of Peace, World Bank Horticulture & Livestock Program
November 2009 Monthly Report, 2009.

Samadi, Ghulam
Status of Cultivation of Pomegranates in Afghanistan, Kabul University.

State of California
California Statistical Abstract, Dept. of Finance, 2010.

United Nations, Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC)
“Afghanistan Opium Winter Rapid Assessment Survey”, February 2008.

United Nations, Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC)
“Afghanistan Opium Winter Rapid Assessment Survey”, January 2009.

United Nations, Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC)
“2008 Annual Opium Poppy Survey in Afghanistan”, August 2008.

United Nations, Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC)
“2009 Annual Opium Poppy Survey in Afghanistan”, September 2009.

Roots of Peace is a humanitarian not-for-profit organization based in California, USA. Roots of Peace operates in post-conflict countries on four continents. For more information on this report, please contact the author at

Special thanks to our donors. Without their funding and support Roots of Peace would not be able to reach so many Afghan families with such positive life changes. This analysis provides basic inputs to education materials for our farmer training. We educate farmers on their options, and then support them to implement their decisions.

This document was written by Roots of Peace in support of multiple programs. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of any of our donors.

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ROP Crop Income Projection Afghanistan – 2010

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