Reference Date: 30-July-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Ongoing conflict seriously weakens agricultural productive capacity, despite overall favourable weather conditions
Food security situation severely impacted by prolonged conflict, especially for vulnerable groups
Millions of people, both internally-displaced and refugees in neighbouring countries, require continued humanitarian assistance
Assistance to agricultural sector, including crops and livestock, is essential to protect livelihoods and prevent further deterioration of the sector
Below-average cereal harvest in 2015 despite favourable weather conditions
Harvesting of 2015 winter wheat and barley crops finished in early July. Weather conditions during the 2015 cropping season were generally favourable, with timely and sufficient rains. However, the ongoing conflict and lack of inputs (such as improved seeds, fertilizers and fuel), damage to agricultural machinery, irrigation systems and storage facilities, together with disruptions in electricity supplies, continued to seriously hamper agricultural production. Insecurity also limited plantings, with the 2015 wheat planted area the smallest since the 1960s.
A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) was conducted in May 2015. The Mission estimated the 2015 wheat harvest at 2.445 million tonnes, some 30 percent higher than the very poor harvest of 2014 but approximately 40 percent lower than the pre-conflict average (2002-2011). Being predominantly rainfed, barley production, at 968 000 tonnes, was the highest since 2006 despite the fact that it came from the smallest area during that period.
The livestock sector, once important in the Syrian Arab Republic’s domestic economy and in its external trade, has suffered substantially since 2011 with reductions in terms of herd and flock numbers of 30 percent for cattle and 40 percent for sheep and goats, while the poultry stock, the main and most affordable source of protein of animal origin, has shrunk by 50 percent. Conditions of the remaining livestock were deemed relatively good at the time of the Mission but were expected to deteriorate with the drying up of pastures from the end of June. In addition, the veterinary service is running out of vaccines and routine drugs.
Producers, transporters and traders are facing increasing transaction costs and security risks. Those, combined with the transportation bottlenecks, led to a build-up of cereals and increased wastage of fruits and vegetables in the production areas, while urban centres remain undersupplied.
Imports in 2015/16 stable compared to previous year but above pre-conflict average
The Syrian Arab Republic normally relies heavily on food imports, amounting to almost half of the total domestic utilization. Overall, at 4.76 million tonnes, the cereal import requirement is expected to remain stable in the current 2015/16 marketing year (July/June) compared to the previous year. Of this, the wheat import requirement is tentatively forecast at about 2 million tonnes. However, the forecasted cereal import requirement (wheat and barley) is significantly above the pre-conflict level of 3.4 million tonnes (2004-2012 average).
Price increases of subsidized items likely to result in higher inflation
In January 2015, the Government introduced price increases for subsidized items. On average, prices of bread increased by 40 percent, with a package of slightly over 1 kg selling for SYP 35 (USD 0.16), as of late March 2015. Prices of butane gas increased from SYP 1 100 to SYP 1 500 per litre, while the price of 1 litre of diesel for transportation purposes increased from SYP 85 to SYP 125 and for domestic household use from SYP 85 to SYP 140.
Reports also indicate that in an effort to reduce the cost of the bread subsidy programme, the Government changed the extraction rate of flour used in bread, introducing more bran. In an effort to mitigate the impact of the higher food prices, a new monthly allowance of SYP 4 000 (USD 18) was introduced for all recipients of state salaries and retirees.
Last official inflation information dates back to August 2014 when inflation fell to single digits. However, the reduction in fuel and bread subsidies, combined with localized shortages and the weakening currency, are likely to put upward pressure on inflation resulting in a further deterioration of purchasing power and food security conditions of poor households.
Overall unemployment stood at 57 percent as of the fourth quarter of 2014, compared to 10 percent in 2011 and up from 49 percent in the first quarter of 2014. Casual labour markets are reeling in conflict-affected zones.
Overall, households spend 55 percent of their income on food compared to 45-47 percent in 2011 and even less previously. People allocate more than two-thirds of their income to food in Dara’a, Sweida, Aleppo and Hama, where households are prioritizing food purchases over other basic needs.
About 4 million refugees registered in the region
As of late July 2015, about 4 million refugees are registered in the region, covering Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The WFP emergency food assistance to the people affected by unrest within the country has been scaled-up to reach 4.5 million by December 2015, up from 4.25 million in 2014. WFP assistance in neighbouring countries is targeting more than 2.1 million beneficiaries by December 2015, down from 2.68 million in 2014, focusing on the most vulnerable groups. Although WFP continues to provide food assistance to vulnerable Syrian populations in the region, resources in host communities remain under strain.