GIEWS Country Brief: Syrian Arab Republic - Reference Date: 17-October-2018

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  • Sharp decline in cereal production due to unfavourable rain distribution

  • Import requirements expected to increase in 2018/19 marketing year

  • Modest economic recovery forecast as security improves

  • Between 6 and 6.3 million people estimated to be food insecure as of August 2018

Sharp decline in cereal production due to unfavourable rain distribution

Despite better security granting improved access to agricultural land in some areas, production of wheat and barley declined sharply in 2018 compared to the previous year due to erratic weather. The 2018 wheat production is estimated at 1.2 million tonnes, the lowest level since 1989 and about 30 percent of the pre‑conflict average of 4.1 million tonnes (2002‑2011). Barley production is estimated at 390 000 tonnes, the lowest level since 2008. An extended dry period early in the season severely affected large areas of rain‑fed cereals, while yields of irrigated cereal were also reduced because of unseasonably late heavy rains and high temperatures.

High production costs, lack of quality inputs and damaged or destroyed infrastructure remain the main constraints to the crop production. However, some progress was made on reconstruction of irrigation infrastructure and improved transport of farm inputs and produce. Given a poor cereal harvest in 2017/18 season, seed is very likely to be in extremely short supply for the 2018/19 season, planting of which starts from October and the bulk is usually planted in November.

Import requirement to increase in 2018/19 marketing year

The country normally relies heavily on food imports, amounting to almost half of the total domestic utilization. Overall, cereal import requirements in the 2018/19 marketing year (July/June) are forecast at 3.7 million tonnes, about 30 percent above the five‑year average. Most of the cereal imports are sourced from the Russian Federation.

Limited economic recovery forecast as security improves

The conflict, which started in March 2011, became more geographically constrained in 2017, with some initial reconstruction efforts getting underway. After 6 years of economic contraction, diving to over 20 percent in 2012 and 2013, the GDP grew by 1.9 percent in 2017. A stronger GDP growth of 6.2 percent is forecast in 2018 as reconstruction efforts are expected to continue amidst lack of finances and depleted workforce.

Despite supply bottlenecks driven by localized fighting continue to exercise an upward pressures on price levels, inflation in 2017 (January‑May, last information available) eased to an estimated 33 percent, down from over 47 percent in 2016, reflecting relative stabilization of local currency.

The official exchange rate for the US dollar (USD) against the Syrian Pound (SYP) was set by the Central Bank of the Syrian Arab Republic in November 2017 at SYP 434 per USD, down from SYP 517 per USD in June 2017. The slight strengthening of the exchange rate is attributed to the increased flow of remittances easing hard-currency shortages as a result of improved security.

Between 6 and 6.3 million people are estimated to be food insecure

Population displacement continues to be the main driver of food insecurity in the country. Currently there are about 6.2 million internally displaced people, including 1.3 million displacements of people since January 2018, some of them being displaced several times. The largest number of IDPs within the country is hosted in Rural Damascus, followed by Idleb and Aleppo governorates.

A FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission visited the country in June/July 2018 and estimated that 5.5 million Syrians are food insecure and require some form of food assistance. In addition, between 500 000 to 800 000 people may be food insecure in Idleb Governorate.

Market access and trade has considerably improved in the last year due to the revival of important trade routes across the country, which had been disrupted since 2013. Access to markets remains severely constrained in Idleb and south Deir‑ez‑Zor governorates.

As of early October 2018, over 5.6 million Syrian refugees are registered in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In addition, a large number of Syrians live abroad without seeking refugee registration.

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.