To inform humanitarian cash programming, REACH, in partnership with the 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 February 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 February 2021 data.
Coverage and data collection dates
In February 2021, REACH and partners covered 26 sub-districts and 2,230 individual shops in northwest Syria (NWS) for the Market Monitoring Exercise. In light of the fluctuation of the Syrian Pound (SYP)’s value and resulting market disruption, prices in the Market Monitoring dataset and output should be seen as representative only of the markets and dates where and when information was collected (1-8th February). Highest northwest SMEB SYP cost recorded; SMEB USD cost slightly increased In February, the value of the regional Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB) reached 348,347 SYP, a 6% increase compared to January and a 55% long-term increase since August 2020, setting a new record for the highest ever recorded price in the Market Monitoring Exercise in NWS. The SMEB in United States Dollar (USD) increased from 113 USD in January to 116 USD in February alongside a depreciation of the SYP against the USD (see next paragraph).
Depreciation of the SYP against the USD
In February, the informal USD/SYP regional median exchange rate increased by 5% since January and reached a regional median of 3,000 USD/SYP. The six-month change, a 39% increase since August 2020, highlights that the SYP remains an unstable currency against the USD. The highest exchange rate was recorded at 3,160 SYP to 1 USD in Batbu community in Aleppo governorate.
Fuel prices further increased
At the regional level, overall prices for transport fuels increased by 9% between January and February, with a median price of 1,859 SYP per litre. Less expensive, manually refined fuels, including petrol and kerosene remained largely unavailable in NWS due to inaccessibility of raw material inputs and low levels of import for fuels that are refined in northeast Syria (NES). Low levels of import are also due to the depreciation of the SYP and price increases in global price of fuel. For example, 77% of surveyed fuel vendors reported that manually refined petrol was not available in their market at the time of data collection. With the significant unavailability of lower quality but less expensive fuels, prices for high quality diesel and petrol (largely European fuels imported via Turkey) continued increasing in February, driven both by increasing demand as well as by fluctuating exchange rates of both the SYP and the TRY against the USD.
Continued increase of food item prices
The cost of the regional SMEB food component reached 244,765 SYP in February, a 8% increase since January and a 59% increase since August 2020. The fresh food/vegetable component of the SMEB increased by 18% since January. The price of cucumbers increased by 27%, potatoes increased by 18%, green peas increased by 7% and tomatoes remained at the same price as in January, contributing to a 234% price increase for the fresh vegetable component since August 2020. According to REACH field teams, this trend is primarily a result of decreased availability of locally grown warm weather produce and increased reliance on more expensive, imported produce, as well as due to increasing transport fuel prices and the further depreciation of the SYP.
Bulk food prices also increased by 10% overall since January, again due to the higher cost of imported items, rising fuel costs, and unstable exchange rates against the USD. REACH field teams also reported that this trend may be due to the lack of bulk/dried food distributions by organizations, in addition to the increase in demand and consumption due to the lack of alternative food products in the winter season. The price of bread (bag of 8 pieces) also increased by 5% since December, reaching a regional median of 800 SYP. Increasing bread prices are primarily due to a similar rise in the price of flour (6% increase since January), a product which is in short supply in the region and for which import prices are dependent on fluctuating exchange rates, according to REACH field teams. Additionally, high prices were also recorded for other SMEB food items such as chicken, the price of which decreased by 3% since January but has increased by 41% since August 2020, due to a combination of factors including SYP depreciation and the limited availability of locally raised chicken. For similar reasons, the price of eggs increased by 9% since January and by 91% since August 2020.
Rising cost of cooking oils and cooking fuels
In addition to the rising cost of food items themselves, additional items that are necessary for the preparation and cooking of raw food also increased in price. Median regional prices for vegetable oil and ghee, both commonly used for cooking, rose by 12% and 11% respectively between January and February, continuing a significant upward trend. Both commodities are largely imported into NWS and, therefore, subject to exchange rate fluctuations. The cost of fuels used for cooking also increased over this one-month period by 8%, whereby the median price of manually refined kerosene increased by 2% and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) increased by 7%. As reported above, manually refined kerosene is often unavailable in many markets of NWS (reported as unavailable by 57% of surveyed fuel vendors in February), leading consumers in NWS to rely more heavily on the use of LPG for cooking purposes.