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Country Briefs

  Syrian Arab Republic

Reference Date: 21-July-2017


  1. Some improvement in 2017 cereal production due to better rains and localized improvements in security, but still less than half of pre-conflict average

  2. Food security situation severely impacted by prolonged conflict, especially for most vulnerable groups

  3. About 6.9 million people food insecure

Below-average cereal harvest in 2017

The harvesting of the 2016/17 season winter wheat and barley crops finished in early July. The area planted with cereals in the 2016/17 cropping season did not change significantly compared to the previous period: an estimated 1.17 million hectares were planted with wheat and 1.11 hectares with barley. For comparison in 2011, before the start of the conflict, over 1.5 million hectares were cultivated with wheat and 1.3 million hectares with barley.

A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) was conducted in May 2017. The Mission estimated the 2017 wheat harvest at about 1.8 million tonnes, some 12 percent more than last year’s record low harvest, but still much less than half of the pre-conflict average of 4.1 million tonnes (2002-2011). The slight increase in production is attributed to better rainfall and some local improvements in civil security which allowed for a larger share of planted area to be harvested. Being predominantly rainfed and more resilient than wheat, barley production was estimated at 777 000 tonnes, almost 8 percent higher than last year. Barley production varies greatly year to year. Unharvested areas of barley are often grazed by livestock.

The main agricultural constraints facing crop production continue to be high production costs, lack of inputs and damaged or destroyed infrastructure, including irrigation.

Over the past two years, the herd sizes have stabilized albeit at a very low level. The main constraints restricting livestock production continue to be high fodder prices, insufficient coverage of veterinary services and access to grazing areas in parts of the country due to the compromised security situation. Improved pasture conditions, benefiting from higher rainfall, should ease the pressure from high fodder prices, provided that the access is possible.

Import requirement to increase in 2017/18 marketing year

The country normally relies heavily on food imports, amounting to almost half of the total domestic utilization. Overall, the cereal import requirement in the current 2017/18 marketing year (July/June) is forecast at 3.4 million tonnes, with an increase of 17 percent compared to the previous year.

Economic prospects still deteriorating

The GDP in 2016 contracted by 3.4 percent, less than the 5.3 percent contraction recorded in 2015. A positive GDP growth of 1.8 percent is forecast for 2017 as limited reconstruction efforts are likely to begin, hampered by lack of finances. Inflation in 2016 increased to an estimated 43.9 percent, up from 38 percent in 2015, reflecting general shortages and cuts in fuel and some food subsidies. The unemployment rate is estimated at about 50 percent (although precise statistics are missing), up from about 10 percent at the beginning of the conflict. The official exchange rate for the US Dollar (USD) against the Syrian Pound (SYP) was set by the Central Bank of the Syrian Arab Republic in June 2017 at SYP 517 per USD. The official exchange rate has been stabilized since August 2016 at slightly over SYP 500 per USD. In January 2016, USD 1 officially traded for SYP 395.

About 6.9 million food insecure

The CFSAM estimated that 6.9 million Syrians are food insecure in terms of current consumption. In addition, the situation of 5.6 million Syrians would likely be worse off without the food assistance provided. An additional 3.1 million people are at risk of food insecurity as they are using asset depletion strategies in order to meet their consumption needs, and only 3.5 million can currently be considered food secure.

Syrians have to resort to food coping strategies to cover the severe food shortages they are facing. Some 50 percent of the households have reduced the number of meals and more than 30 percent have restricted the consumption to adults to prioritize children. In the seventh year of the crisis, the large majority of the households have depleted their assets and are no longer able to draw on stocks or other reserves. They resort to child labour or have to withdraw their children from and school to cope.

As of early July 2017, almost 5.1 million refugees are registered in the region covering Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In addition, a large share of the population lives abroad without seeking refugee registration.