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The return of drought conditions to Central Asia: Update and possible impact on food security

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22 July 2011 - This paper updates UNDP’s May 2011 analysis of emerging drought trends in the Aral Sea basin, as measured by data reported on CAWATERinfo. It also provides an initial look at the possible impact on agriculture and food security, by focusing on official food price data in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan. While not conclusive, these data suggest that drought conditions are having an impact on these countries—but primarily on food prices rather than output, and probably less than the impact of high global food prices in general.

The CAWATERinfo data raise particular drought concerns about the Amu-Darya basin in Central Asia’s southern regions (Map 1). Low (below seasonal averages) levels of inflows and especially outflows at virtually all major reservoirs do not bode well for the harvest of irrigated crops in 2011. Likewise for meteorological trends, which point to a hot, dry summer.[1]Fortunately, there is no indication yet of serious declines in agricultural output in the region. Likewise, thanks primarily to large amounts of water being retained in Kyrgyzstan’s Toktogul reservoir, the possible implications of drought conditions in the Syr-Darya Basin seem less serious than in the Amu-Darya basin.