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Country Briefs

  Syrian Arab Republic

Reference Date: 21-June-2018

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Weather and conflict constrain agricultural production

  2. Import requirement to remain stable in 2018/19 marketing year

  3. Some economic recovery forecast as security improves

  4. Almost 6.5 million people food insecure

Weather and conflict constrain agricultural production

Harvesting of the 2018 winter wheat and barley crops started in late May and is expected to finish in early July. The lack of rains from October 2017 to early January 2018 delayed sowings in some parts of the country. Early soil moisture deficit was partially compensated by good precipitation received in the spring. However, high production costs, lack of inputs and damaged or destroyed infrastructure, including irrigation, continue to hamper agricultural production. Remote sensing information indicates that some fields in eastern Hassakeh and parts of Aleppo, Raqqa and Dayr Az Zor might have not been sown, possibly due to conflict-related constraints. Consequently, a below-average cereal harvest is expected to be gathered in 2018.

Import requirement increased 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 2017/18 marketing year (July/June) is forecast at 3.4 million tonnes, about 20 percent above the five-year average. Most of the cereal imports are sourced from the Russian Federation.

Limited economic recovery forecast as security improves

The conflict, which started in March 2011, continues to severely affect the country, although limited stabilization and recovery are taking place due to localized improvements in security. A positive GDP growth of 1.9 percent was estimated for 2017 as constrained reconstruction efforts begun, compared to a contraction of 3.4 percent in 2016. A positive GDP growth of 6.3 percent is forecast for 2018 as limited reconstruction efforts continue, hampered by the lack of finances and labour shortages.

Albeit down from over 40 percent in 2016, inflation in 2017 remained high at almost 30 percent, reflecting supply bottlenecks, cuts to subsidies and currency depreciation. Although precise statistics are not available, the unemployment rate is estimated at about 50 percent 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 November 2017 at SYP 434 per USD, down from SYP 517 per USD in June 2017. The slight strengthening of the exchange rate is attributed to the increased flow of remittances easing hard-currency shortages as a result of improved security.

About 6.5 million people are food insecure

As of September 2017 (latest available figures), about 6.5 million people face large food consumption gaps and extreme loss of livelihood assets, contributing to food consumption gaps in the short term. A further 4 million people are at risk of becoming food insecure due to the depletion of assets to maintain food consumption.

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. During the eight years 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 school to cope.

As of May 2018, almost 5.7 million Syrian refugees are registered in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In addition, a large number of Syrians live abroad without seeking refugee registration.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.