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ملخصات البلاد

  Syrian Arab Republic

Reference Date: 21-December-2021

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Erratic rainfall and high input costs hinder sowing of 2022 cereal crops

  2. Below‑average cereal harvest gathered in 2021

  3. Livestock owners destocking herds as high feed prices and lack of pasture increased production costs

  4. Increasing numbers of food insecure in 2020, as economic challenges and rapid currency depreciation decrease purchasing power

Erratic rainfall and high input costs hinder sowing

Sowing of the 2022 wheat and barley crops are ongoing and are expected to conclude by the end of the year. The first substantial rainfall of the season was recorded in the second decade of November. Since September 2021, cumulative rainfall amounts ranged from about 60 percent of the average in Homs to almost 90 percent in Sweida. According to the latest seasonal weather forecast, drier‑than‑average conditions are likely to prevail until February 2022.

Following a well below‑average 2021 harvest, coupled with the effects of broad macroeconomic challenges, farmers have limited their financial resources and credit is very constrained, while prices of inputs are increasing. The provision of fertilizers at subsidized prices ceased in June 2021. In October 2021, the average price of urea on the markets was SYP 2 100/kg, exceeding the liberalized price of SYP 1 400/kg. Similar increases were recorded for other fertilizers and crop protection material that, despite their often unknown origin and efficacy, remain available on the market, but are not accessible for many farmers with consequent low application rates.

The availability of subsidized diesel is limited and prices have increased from SYP 180/litre in 2020 to SYP 500 in 2021. The average free market price in October 2021 was above SYP 2 800/litre, constraining farmers’ ability to irrigate their crops in case erratic rainfall continues during the coming months. Limited water availability in transborder river flows and decreased water table across most of the country, are also expected to limit 2022 wheat production.

The quantity of wheat seeds provided by the General Organization for Seed Multiplication (GOSM) is generally not sufficient to cover the national needs. In the current season, the cost of subsidized GOSM seed is SYP 1 585/kg, up from SYP 450/kg in 2020. In October 2021, the price of wheat seed on the markets was between SYP 1 500 to SYP 1 800/kg, depending on the location, up from SYP 500 to SYP 600/kg one year before.

Given unfavourable weather prospects and high production costs, area planted with cereals is likely to be lower than in previous years.

Below‑average 2021 cereal harvest, livestock owners destocking

Insufficient and poorly distributed rainfall in the 2020/21 agricultural season, together with several heatwaves, the high cost of inputs, limited availability of irrigation water and high cost of fuel for pumping, resulted in a significant contraction of harvestable cereal area. The harvested wheat area is estimated at 787 000 hectares, slightly over half of the area harvested in 2019. The harvested barley area is estimated at 352 000 hectares, about 75 percent less than the previous year as large swathes of land were not deemed worth harvesting. Wheat production in 2021 is estimated at around 1.05 million tonnes, down from 2.8 million in 2020 and only one‑quarter of the pre‑crisis average of 4.1 million tonnes (during the period 2002‑2011). At 268 000 tonnes, barley production is about 10 percent of the bumper harvests in 2019 and 2020. Details about the 2020/21 agricultural season are provided in the 2021 FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission report .

High feed prices and lack of pasture are likely to result in extensive destocking. Prices of live animals have already decreased compared to last year, as farmers have sold part of their herds to gain liquidity to purchase feed and other inputs for the remaining animals.

Economic challenges increase food insecurity and threaten agricultural production

Battered by ten years of conflict and spill‑over effects from the financial crisis in Lebanon which used to act as a financial intermediary, the national economy continues to weaken. The Central Bank of the Syrian Arab Republic maintains the official exchange rate of USD 1 at SYP 2 512, set in April 2021. On the parallel market, in early December 2021, USD 1 was traded for SYP 3 500, though this is significantly below the levels of SYP 4 700 seen in April 2021, before the introduction of strict capital controls and restrictions on the movement of cash. For reference, before the onset of the conflict in March 2011, USD 1 was traded for SYP 47.

Without updated estimates for 2021, the World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that about 12.4 million people (60 percent of the overall population) were food insecure in 2020, 5.4 million more than at the end of 2019, mostly due to constrained livelihood opportunities and the rapidly worsening economy. However, as of December 2021, about 6.7 million Syrians were internally displaced and 5.6 million were registered as refugees outside of the country. In addition, a large number of Syrians are thought to be living abroad without refugee registration.

Food security deteriorated in 2021 across the country due to a challenging macroeconomic environment, rapid currency devaluation and lack of livelihood opportunities. The situation has also worsened in the northern part of the country, which was using Turkish Lira (TRY) as a de facto currency. Following the currency crisis in Turkey, the Turkish Lira lost 40 percent of its value in one year. In early 2021, USD 1 was sold for about TRY 7 to TRY 8, slowly climbed to TRY 9 in October, reaching TRY 14 in late November 2021, constraining the purchasing power of the population.

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.