Despite a Good Harvest, Syria Needs More Wheat Imports
Despite a better harvest and higher prices, five years of civil war has resulted in Syrian farmers selling less wheat to the state causing a need for an increase to imports. The Syrian government may find achieving higher imports to be challenging however due to ongoing sanctions.
The government has lost control of many wheat producing regions of the country but announced this past February (in an attempt to reassert its authority) that it would buys its needed supply from its own producers rather than turn to imports.
However, as the buying window is almost closed, the government has bought only 454,744 tons of local wheat compared to 523,000 tons last year and 2.5 million tons per year before the war began despite a price increase from 45 Syrian pounds per kilo last year to 61 Syrian pounds per kilo.
Because of the domestic situation, long distance transport is dangerous, and many farmers have opted to sell at a lower price to local middlemen who then export the wheat to neighboring Turkey and Iraq, or to plant other crops altogether.
The multiple warring factions in the country – the Assad Government, the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition, Syrian Kurds, and Islamist jihadists like Islamic State are all engaged in a power struggle - vying for control of wheat producing regions and purchasing power to gain a share of the supply.
The government has issued an estimate for this year’s wheat crop at 3 million tons – up from 1.9 million tons last year, while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates a crop of 2.445 million tons and the Syrian National Coalition estimates output of 2 million tons. Before the war, production was 3.5 million tons.
In an indication of the loss of territory controlled by the government, Syria’s General Organization for Cereal Processing and Trade established 22 wheat collection centers this year, down from 31 last year and 140 prior to the war.