Reference Date: 26-January-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Despite overall favourable weather conditions, sowing of 2015 crops, nearing completion, is affected by ongoing conflict
Below-average cereal production estimated in 2014 due to impact of conflict and drought conditions
Prolonged conflict has severely impacted on country’s food security situation especially for vulnerable groups
Planting of 2015 crop almost completed
Planting of 2015 winter wheat and barley crops, to be harvested from May 2015, is nearing completion. The long period of rains during the sowing stage established abundant moisture for seed establishment but delayed planting in some areas. The vegetation response captured by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index using satellite images suggests a good establishment of the winter crops.
The ongoing conflict and lack of inputs is seriously hampering agricultural activities. For 2014/15, the Government funds seed distribution only to farmers who had paid back at least 5 percent of their previous debt. By the start of the season, the General Organization for Seed Multiplication (GOSM) had distributed about 12 percent of the country’s requirements, at 60-70 percent of cost price. The fertilizer factory (in Homs) remains operational but only at a fraction of its capacity.
Well below-average cereal production estimated in 2014
Harvesting of 2014 winter grains was completed in July. Reduced plantings and drought conditions in some parts of the country have negatively impacted yields and overall production. Rainfall during the 2013/14 cropping season was particularly poor in terms of both quantity and distribution. According to the meteorological information reported from the governorates through MAAR, until 21 April 2014 the country had received, on average, only 44 percent of the rainfall that had been received in the same period in 2012/13, and rainfall in the 2013/14 main cropping season amounted to only 51 percent of the annual average. The Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) estimates that irrigated wheat received only 65-70 percent of its recommended amount of irrigation water.
The ongoing conflict compounded the problem by limiting farmers’ movements; though damage to agricultural machinery, irrigation systems and storage facilities; through disruption of electricity supplies; and by limiting access to inputs such as improved seeds and fuel.
The Syrian Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAAR) estimated the 2014 wheat production at 1.865 million tonnes, over 20 percent less than in 2013 and the lowest level of wheat production for 25 years.
The drought in 2014 triggered the Government’s compensation scheme for farmers affected by natural disasters. Complete loss of crop entitles a farmer to 10 percent of the cost of production while 50 percent loss entitles him or her to 5 percent of production costs. For the 2013/14 cropping season, the Government paid out SYP 250 million in compensation, in cash, to 18 000 farmers.
Out of the 140 grain collection centres that would purchase grain from farmers, only 31 remain under Government control. Likewise, out of 32 large siloes and 99 small ones previously at Government’s disposal, only 14 and 32, respectively, remain under its control. The rest have been seized by opposition forces, damaged or destroyed. The 14 large siloes have a total capacity of 1.4 million tonnes, while the smaller ones have a total capacity of 296 400 tonnes. The Government’s capacity to store grain has been reduced by 55 percent in respect of large siloes, and by 76 percent in respect of small siloes. Total Government purchases in 2014 reached slightly over 500 000 tonnes, about half of the amount purchased in 2013. There are indications that some production was sold cross-border to Iraq to take advantage of better prices.
Elsewhere, livestock populations in 2014 are reported to have stabilized at approximately 50 percent of their pre-conflict levels.
Cereal import requirement expected to increase in 2014/15 marketing year (July/June)
The Syrian Arab Republic normally relies heavily on food imports amounting to almost half of the total domestic utilization. Overall, the cereal import requirement is expected to increase in the subsequent 2014/15 market year to 4.6 million tonnes compared to the previous year’s 4.3 million tonnes. Of this, the wheat import requirement in 2014/15 (July/June) is tentatively forecast at about 2 million tonnes.
Refugees registered in region total about 3.7 million
As of mid-January 2015, about 3.7 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 is scaled to reach 4.5 million by December 2015, up from 4.25 million in 2014. WFP assistance in neighbouring countries is to reach 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.