Reference Date: 28-January-2014
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Current estimates indicate well below-average cereal harvest in 2013 following escalation of conflict
Growing concern over the impact of prolonged conflict on the food security situation, especially of vulnerable groups
Food inflation continues to escalate
4 million people facing food insecurity
Planting of winter wheat and barley to be harvested from May 2014 is completed. However, ongoing conflict and lack of inputs hampers agricultural production.
Below average wheat harvest in 2013
Despite favorable seasonal rainfall in 2012/13, the 2013 wheat production was estimated at 2.4 million tonnes; significantly lower than the average for the ten years prior to 2010/11 that exceeded 4 million tonnes (a 40 percent decline) and 15 percent below the poor 2011/12 crop. The barley crop, which is predominantly rainfed, was expected to be close to 1 million tonnes, above the average annual production of 773 000 tonnes for the ten years prior to 2010/11. Less area was planted to cereals due to high costs of production, reduced input availability including labour, prevailing violence, related damage to farm equipment, and abandoned land. Power cuts, damage to power stations, canals, and pumps; and high diesel costs contributed to a decline of the area under irrigated cereal production. Pre- and post-harvest grain losses are higher than average this year, due mostly to damage to harvesting equipment and storage structures.
Likewise, the livestock sector has been seriously depleted by the ongoing conflict. Poultry production is estimated to be down by more than 50 percent compared with 2011, and sheep and cattle numbers are down approximately 35 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Vaccines are in short supply and sanctions prohibit imports. Due to higher prices, more Syrian livestock are being sold in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. With the virtual loss of veterinary services within Syria, livestock diseases are being transmitted to neighbouring countries, thereby posing a potentially serious regional animal-health problem.
Cereal import requirements expected to increase in current 2013/14 marketing year
The Syrian Arab Republic normally relies heavily on food imports amounting to almost half of the total domestic utilization. Overall cereal import requirement is expected to increase compared to the previous year. The wheat import requirement in 2013/14 (July/June) is estimated at about 1.47 million tonnes of which 1 million tonnes are anticipated to be imported commercially.
Food prices rise with the level of inflation soaring to record levels since end-2011
According to data from the Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics, the country’s year-on-year inflation rate stood at almost 50 percent in November 2012 (last month for which data are available), mainly driven by sharp increases in food prices and by fuel shortages that are impacting on transportation costs. Prices of bread and cereals, major staples in the local diet increased sharply with a year-on-year inflation rate of about 64 percent in November 2012.
Since the beginning of the conflict, prices of the main food commodities have increased substantially both in nominal and in real terms. Average monthly prices of wheat flour in local currency have more than doubled since 2011 in several locations. Rice and vegetable oil prices have almost doubled whereas sugar prices are almost 65 percent higher than in 2011. When controlling for inflation due to the depreciation of the SYP, food commodity price increases remain high. In USD term, wheat flour price is now almost double its 2011 level, and vegetable oil and rice prices are about 25 percent higher.
The total unemployment rate in the Syrian Arab Republic in 2013 has increased to 18 percent; more than twice the seven-year average (2003-2010) of 8 percent. High unemployment levels coupled with high inflation rates seriously impacted the purchasing power of the population.
Civil unrest aggravates food insecurity
Continued civil unrest since mid-March 2011 has raised serious concern over the state of food security, particularly for vulnerable groups. Following the unrest, the economy contracted by 3.4 percent in 2011 and 19 percent in 2012. For 2013 external sources expected a contraction of over 13 percent. The economy also under pressure from international sanctions which include an embargo on oil exports as well as restrictions on international trade, investment and financial transactions.
The Government’s fiscal capacity to support producer and consumer subsidy schemes has come under severe strain following the economic downturn and the international sanctions.
2.4 million refugees registered in the region
The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) conducted between May and June 2013 estimated that approximately 4 million people are facing food insecurity. Most vulnerable groups include the internally displaced, small scale farmers, and herders; casual labourers, petty traders, the urban poor, children, pregnant and lactating mothers, the elderly, the disabled and the chronically sick.
As of January 2014, almost 2.4 million refugees are registered in the region covering Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Although WFP continues to provide food assistance to vulnerable Syrian populations in the region, resources in host communities remain under strain. The WFP assistance in neighbouring countries is scaled to reach more than 2.5 million beneficiaries by December 2014, up from 795 000 in June 2013.