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11.8 Conclusions

During the last two decades, there has been a considerable increase in the total number of holders and a decline in the average size of each holding. More than a third of all holdings have an area of 2 ha or less. Among holders with land, 29 percent have another job than farming as a main occupation. Absentee holders include those holding large areas, who do not have time to cultivate their land, as well as those with small amounts of land that cannot earn enough income on that land to support a family. The educational status of holders is very low. More than 83 percent of all holders have education less than or equal to elementary, and a large share of those (44 percent) are illiterate.

A large number of holders (23.4 percent of all holders with land) plant only fruit trees. This proportion is much larger among small size holdings. Larger holdings are generally more capital intensive than smaller sized holdings. The higher capital intensity seems to hold for all capital types and for family labour, which is the prevalent type of labour in agriculture in Syria. The generally lower capital intensity of smaller farms implies that the opportunity cost of family labour is lower for smaller holdings, compared to large ones. This is consistent with excess supply of labour by smaller holdings.

Despite the price support policies of the Government, the bulk of agricultural households in Syria remain faced with low incomes and economic difficulties. While rural amenities and standard of living seem to have increased during the last decade there are still many agricultural households that barely make enough income to make ends meet. Nevertheless, it was seen that the bulk of the two key strategic crops, wheat and cotton, are produced by larger farms, who in turn are the largest beneficiaries of the Government price supports. The same seems to also hold for irrigation subsidies. Thus Government agricultural price policies seem to have been regressive. On the other hand it was seen that the bulk of marketed surplus of smaller farm households is concentrated in fruits, and these products are not heavily supported. It thus appears that the pursuit of comparative advantage by Syria will be to the benefit of smaller farm households, and hence consistent with Government distributional objectives.

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