Drought conditions threaten food security of Syria's nomadic livestock producers
The Mission found that rainfall in the country's key agricultural areas was 25 to nearly 70 percent below normal. With only a quarter of Syria's agricultural land under irrigation, this lack of rainfall has had a devastating effect on food and livestock production.
The country's barley crop, which is almost entirely dependant on rainfall, has been seriously affected. The report forecasts that Syria's barley harvest will be only 380 000 tonnes, less than half of last year's total and down 72 percent from the previous five year average. Reductions in wheat production are expected to be less severe, as 40 percent of Syria's wheat fields are irrigated. Nevertheless, the wheat harvest, estimated at 2.74 million tonnes, is one-third less than the previous year's crop and about 28 percent below average.
According to the report, Syria will be able to meet its wheat requirements through current production and existing stocks, but the country's barley requirements, estimated at just under 1.2 million tonnes, will have to be obtained through imports. The Syrian government, faced with economic slowdown largely the result of falling oil prices, can only afford to import 200 000 tonnes, leaving a shortfall of nearly one million tonnes. As part of an emergency programme, the government has permitted the private sector to import barley. However, traders have little financial incentive to import barley given the limited revenues of livestock producers, who desperately need feed to keep their herds alive.
Nomadic herders face dire situation in the Syrian
The report recommends that 23 000 tonnes of wheat flour be delivered to Syria during the next six months to assist the nearly 50 000 families at risk of food shortages and adds that further international assistance is needed to replenish the country's almost depleted National Fodder Fund.
Even with this assistance, Syria's nomadic livestock producers face a difficult future. The report points out that "even under an optimistic scenario where normal rainfall patterns resume this year, it will take most herders several seasons to recover from the effects of drought. Indeed, some may never be in a position to resume herding and repay loans." According to the report, "a reoccurrence of the drought again this year would be catastrophic for the nomadic population."
8 September 1999