Crops Fires in North West and North East of Syria Situation Report – June 2019
First: PKK-Held Areas
Al-Hasakeh governorate is considered to be the first source of wheat and barley strategic crops in Syria, where Ar-Raqqa governorate ranks second; and all the lands of these two governorates are under the control of PKK.
The vast majority of the people there depend on barley and wheat crops. The two governorates have witnessed huge fires that broke up in the agricultural lands and engulfed the crops in the flames. The Municipality of the People in Ar-Raqqa in Tal Kojar (Ya’robiyah sub-district in Al-Hasakeh governorate) issued the overall statistics of the burnt lands within many sub-districts of Al-Hasakeh on 12 June 2019, and the estimated number of burnt dunums of agricultural lands is 15,360 dunums, distributed among 23 towns, with 60% of the agricultural lands in the area are estimated to have been burnt.
The enumerators of the IMU in the ACU, managed to count 348 fires that engulfed the crops of Al-Hasakeh governorate with 60 fires broke down inQahtaniyyeh sub-district.
Given the sequence of fires in Al-Hasakeh governorate, the fires first broke up in May 2019; noting that the number of fires increased in the first half of June 2019.
After surveying the burnt agricultural lands in Al-Hasakeh governorate, the IMU in the ACU estimates the dunums of the burnt agricultural lands in Syria to be 29,380 dunums in May and June 2019. The largest part of the lands burnt were in Be'r Al-Hulo Al-Wardeyyeh sub-district, and the estimated number of burnt agricultural lands in Tal Hmis and Tal Tamer sub-districts is 6,000 dunums.
PKK has issued a decision setting the prices of agricultural crops for this year. Several websites have published information on the wheat price set by PKK. These sites confirmed that the price set by PKK (150 SYP per kilogram of wheat; 100 SYP per kg of barley), which is low in comparison with the prices set by the regime, as the regime set the price of 1 kg of wheat at 185 Syrian Pounds. According to the sites that published the news, PKK attributed the low prices due to the presence of large quantities of crops exceeding the absorptive capacity of local markets. As it was reported, PKK is monopolizing the purchase of agricultural crops from all farmers in its areas of control and is preventing the sale of crops to traders or the transfer of crops outside their areas of control.
Several days later, the PKK self-government issued a decision to raise the purchase price of wheat from farmers from 150 Syrian pounds per 1 kg to 160 Syrian pounds, while the price of barley purchase was not raised, and was set by 100 SYP per 1 kg. It is noteworthy that the PKK had already set the purchase price of wheat by 150 SYP per 1 kg and barley price by 100 SYP several days ago. However, popular protests took place in all PKK-held areas, in objection to the low price set by PKK compared to that set by the Syrian regime, prompting PKK to raise the price of wheat only, yet the prices remained lower than the prices set by the regime. On a related context, the head of the Economy and Agriculture Department of PKK said that farmers should not be prevented from selling their crops to any party, as long as they are to be in PKK-held areas. The farmers considered this as the circumvention of the farmers and their rights to obtain prices that cover the costs of agriculture, as the PKK traders and its affiliates are the only entities that are trading wheat in these areas. A lot of people think that PKK forces are the ones who set the fires in the agricultural lands due to their inability to provide competitive prices as those offered by the regime and the opposition. On 15 June 2019, 12 civilians were killed in the fire that broke up in Al-Hasakeh governorate, where two women were among those killed, in addition to five charred bodies who weren’t even possible to be identified. Seven civilians, including three women, were lost in the fires, and tens of people with various burn injuries were rushed to the hospitals. Furthermore, people died while trying to put out the fires set in their lands.