Tuesday, September 20, 2016

EXCLUSIVE-Battered by war, Syria's wheat crop halved this year to new low - Thomas Reuters

ABU DHABI/BEIRUT, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Syria's wheat harvest nearly halved to 1.3 million tonnes this year, the lowest in 27 years, as fighting and poor rainfall further degraded the farming sector and the nation's ability to feed itself.
The government of President Bashar al-Assad was forced to tender this summer for an unprecedented 1.35 million tonnes of imported wheat from political ally Russia to ensure supply of the flat loaves that are a staple for the Syrian people.
Before the five-year-old civil war, Syria was a wheat exporter producing four million tonnes in a good year and able to export 1.5 million tonnes...

Two dry spells, one in December and the other between mid-February and mid-March helped to cut the 2016 crop down from the 2.44 million tonnes in 2015, when most areas had ample rainfall.
In areas were there was rain, like the northeast province of Hasaka which accounts for almost half the country's wheat production, only 472,000 hectares were planted out of a planned 706,000 hectares due to the security situation, Yao said.
There has been heavy fighting in Hasaka as an alliance of Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by U.S.-led air strikes pushed Islamic State militants out of some territory this year....

The outlook for wheat is not good. For the coming 2016/2017 planting season the government-run General Organisation for Seeds Multiplication only managed to distribute 30,000 tonnes of wheat seed compared to 450,000 tonnes prior to the war.
Of the country's total wheat production this year, only around 400,000 tonnes were procured by the government, a source at the General Organisation for Cereal Processing and Trade (Hoboob), the state body responsible for wheat, said.
The figure is far short of the one to 1.5 million tonnes needed to provide bread to government-held areas of Syria....

-bth: a couple of take aways besides the general food shortage.  Russia will be able to import wheat into the government controlled sector giving it influence.  Second, the struggle around grain silos will likely intensify.  This has been an observable factor in Iraq and Syria in recent years.  Also one might expect IS to try to abduct farmers' families to be held as hostage for a percentage of the grain yields. This has happened in recent years and I see no reason it will not increase or intensify.

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