FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
- Favourable cereal production prospects, but structural issues continue to constrain agricultural activities
- Stable import requirement forecast in 2020/21 marketing year
- Elevated prices, stagnant salaries and high unemployment rates increase food insecurity
Favourable cereal production prospects, but structural issues continue to constrain agricultural activities
The harvest of the 2020 barley crop started in early May, while wheat will be harvested from the end of May. Ample and well-distributed rainfall maintained favourable crop conditions throughout the season. About 1.3 million hectares were planted with wheat in autumn 2019, slightly less than the 1.35 million hectares of the previous year. Usually not the entire area planted is harvested due to a variety of reasons, such as pests and diseases or accidental field fires: in the previous year, about 94 percent of planted area was harvested. Assuming favourable weather conditions prevail until the harvesting period, the 2020 wheat production is forecast at 2.6 million tonnes, up from 2.2 million tonnes in 2019, but still well below the pre-crisis level of 4.1 million tonnes (2002-2011). Although similar favourable conditions prevailed in 2019, high temperatures in May 2019 had an adverse effect on wheat grain filling, constraining yields.
For the 2020 harvest, barley was planted on an estimated 1.499 million hectares, slightly more than the 1.456 million hectares planted in the previous year, out of which 92 percent was harvested. An above-average harvest of 1.7 million tonnes is forecast, more than double the pre-crisis average. To obtain a better price, barley is often informally traded to Lebanon.
The General Establishment for Cereal Processing and Trade (Hoboob) remains the exclusive purchaser of wheat. For the current season, the Government allocated SYP 450 billion for wheat purchases and, out of this amount, SYP 150 billion was already transferred to the Agricultural Bank to be disbursed to farmers. The 2020 purchasing prices for first grade wheat were set at SYP 225/kg (equivalent to USD 0.18/kg), with a bonus of SYP 25 for delivery included. The purchasing price for the same grade in 2019 was SYP 185/kg, including a bonus of SYP 15. In previous years, most grain purchased by Hoboob fell into the second grade category, for which payment is slightly less. To sell to Hoboob in the past, farmers had to purchase new hessian sacks and deliver them to the collection place. Other entities were purchasing grain at the same price as Hoboob, but collecting it on farms and not requiring the use of new sacks.
Reports indicate that, this year more bags for selling to Hoboob will be available for purchase by Hoboob.
Farmers continue to be concerned about the high production and transportation costs as well as the lack of quality inputs. Despite the Government’s initiatives to increase the availability of farm machinery, it generally remains insufficient. Some progress has been made on the rehabilitation of irrigation structures, although many farmers report lack of maintenance. Wastage of fruit and vegetable production continues to be high as a consequence of low consumer purchasing power, lack of export markets and the shortage of domestic processing factories.