To inform humanitarian cash programming, REACH in partnership with the northeast (NES) and northwest (NWS) Syria Cash Working Group (CWG) conducts monthly Market Monitoring Exercises in northern Syria to assess the availability and prices of 36 basic commodities that are typically sold in markets and consumed by average Syrian households, including food and non-food items, water, fuel, and cellphone data.
Of these, 18 items comprise the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB; see below), which represents the minimum, culturally adjusted items required to support a 6-person household for a month.
Data collection took place between 1-8th March 2021 and was conducted by Care Shafak, GOAL, People In Need, Syrian Association for Relief and Development (SARD), Solidarités International, Violet, NRC and REACH.
The accompanying data is disseminated monthly and is distributed through partners across the humanitarian community. See REACH Resource Centre for the March 2021 data.
Coverage and data collection dates
In March 2021, REACH and partners covered 28 sub-districts in northeast Syria (NES) for the Market Monitoring exercise, including 1,799 individual shops. Please note that prices should be seen as representative only of the markets and dates where and when information was collected (1-8th March).
Highest northeast SMEB cost in SYP recorded
In March, the value of the regional SMEB reached 351,203 Syrian pounds (SYP), a 24% increase compared to February and 78% increase since September 2020, setting the highest ever recorded price in the Market Monitoring exercise in NES. The SMEB in United States Dollars (USD) decreased slightly from 94 USD in February to 90 USD in March.
Further depreciation of the SYP against the USD
Between February and March, the informal USD/SYP regional median exchange rate increased by 27%, reaching a regional median of 3,848 USD/SYP. The highest exchange rate was recorded at 3,970 SYP for 1 USD in Qahtaniyyeh community, in Al-Hasakeh governorate.
Prices decreased slightly for transport fuels; high quality fuels remained unavailable
Regional median prices for transport fuels decreased slightly (by 4%) in NES in March. Prices for manually refined transport fuels showed different price developments between February and March. Manually refined diesel decreased by 5% since February, but showed a 74% price increase since September 2020 nevertheless. Manually refined petrol increased by 11% since February and by 29% over the last six months. According to REACH field teams, these price increases resulted from increased demand and the impact of the SYP depreciation. As in previous months, high quality transport fuels were reported widely unavailable in assessed markets due to increased demand and fuel smuggling between NES and Government of Syria (GOS)-held areas, as well as northwest Syria. 87% of fuel vendors reported that high quality diesel was not available in their market while 69% reported the same regarding high quality petrol. The price of high-quality petrol increased by 25% since February, and by 55% since September 2020. The price of high-quality diesel stayed the same as in February. The price of manually refined kerosene, primarily used for cooking and heating, increased by 14% since February. This continues a 61% six-month price increase since September 2020.
Continued increase of food item prices, bread prices rose considerably
The value of the regional SMEB food component further increased by 20% between February and March, reaching a record high median value of 265,000 SYP. The price of the SMEB vegetable component increased by 5% since February. The price development for all monitored vegetables varied, with tomato prices increasing most significantly by 9%, cucumbers decreasing by 14% and onions decreasing by 4%. According to REACH field teams, these price developments are likely due to the more expensive reliance on the import of fresh foods from GoS areas, affected by high transportation costs and increasing depreciation of the SYP. Additionally, the cost of chicken also increased at the regional level by 24% in March, primarily as a result of the high costs of poultry feed, also impacted by the depreciation of the SYP. The cost of eggs also increased by 8% since February. Finally, overall prices for bulk foods also increased considerably in March (by 22%). Rice increased by 28%, bulgur by 21%, red lentils by 20%, sugar by 18%, tomato paste by 16% and salt by 36%. Whilst bulk food item prices have remained relatively stable with only minor increases month on month due to increased local production, the price increase in March is considerable and represents a 66% six month increase since September 2020. This is also attributed to the SYP depreciation and increasing fuel prices for transport, as much of the bulk food in the region remained imported.
The price of bread also increased considerably by 82% between February and March, however, this was only a 6% increase since September 2020. According to REACH field teams, the increasing prices resulted from increasing flour and fuel prices, as well as wage payments. At the same time, flour prices increased by 30% in March, contributing to an 86% increase in the same six-month period.
Water trucking prices increased, hygiene item prices increased considerably
Following a slight decrease of the SMEB water trucking cost in February, the median regional cost increased in March by 13%, reaching 15,300 SYP. According to REACH field teams, the price increase can be attributed to the rising costs of fuel and the SYP depreciation. This increase represents a 62% price increase since September 2020. Additionally, the cost of the SMEB hygiene component increased by 14% in March, reaching a median of 27,525 SYP. Specifically, the cost of sanitary pads and toothpaste saw the largest increases, by 25% and 23% respectively. The depreciating value of the SYP as well as high transportation costs related to the import of these products likely account for these increases, according to REACH field teams. The median prices of many COVID-19 related items saw varied price fluctuations. Hand sanitizer - which is more frequently locally produced - increased by 35% in price after it saw a slight decrease in February, and facemasks – also frequently locally produced – increased by 22%. The latter may be due in part to the increased consumption by, and demand from, humanitarian organisations, according to REACH field teams. The median prices of plastic gloves (18%), bleach (13%) and sterile alcohol (25%) all increased in price as well.