Syria

Special Report: 2021 FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to the Syrian Arab Republic (December 2021)

Attachments

Highlights

  • Socio-economic background: Although much of the country is now stable and only pockets of active fighting remain contained, the economic conditions are not considered favourable. Already weakened by 10 years of conflict, the economy suffered further setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic and spill-over effects from the economic crisis in Lebanon, long a lifeline of the Syrian economy. High inflation rates, weakening currency and shortages of basic products, including fuel, prevail. International sanctions have generally affected livelihoods of millions of Syrians, directly or indirectly. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), more than 12.4 million people (60 percent of the population) were food insecure in 2020, 5.4 million more than in 2019. The food security situation has continued to worsen in 2021.

  • Crop production: Insufficient and poorly distributed rainfall in the 2020/21 agricultural season, together with several heatwaves, the high cost of inputs, limited availability of irrigation water and high cost of fuel for pumping, resulted in a contraction of the harvestable cereal area. The harvested wheat area is estimated at 787 000 hectares, slightly over half of the area harvested in 2019. The harvested barley area is estimated at 352 000 hectares, about 75 percent less than last year as large swathes of land were not deemed worth to be harvested. Wheat production in 2021 is estimated at around 1.05 million tonnes, down from 2.8 million in 2020, and only one quarter of the pre-crisis average of 4.1 million tonnes (during the period 2002-2011). At 268 000 tonnes, barley production is about 10 percent of the bumper harvests in 2019 and 2020.

  • Main agricultural constraints for crop production: Farmers continue flagging concerns about high production and transportation costs as well as lack of quality inputs. The agricultural machinery fleet is old, with no significant investment. Some progress has been made on the rehabilitation of irrigation structures, although illegal and uncontrolled drilling for groundwater over the past years is likely to have lowered the water table. A significant proportion of previously irrigated lands remain unwatered due to lack of equipment, maintenance or fuel. High rates of wastage were reported in fruit and vegetable production, due to low consumer purchasing power, the inability to export and a shortage of processing factories. Unreliable supply of electricity is also resulting in an increased food waste at the household level.

  • Livestock: Livestock numbers appeared to have stabilized after an initial sharp decline early in the conflict. However, current high feed prices and lack of access to pasture are likely to result in extensive destocking. Prices of live animals already decreased compared to last year, as farmers have sold part of their herds to gain liquidity to purchase feed and other inputs for the remaining animals. Prices of dairy products and eggs increased due mainly to high feed and fuel costs. However, as the rate of price increases is less than that of production costs, producers are incurring financial losses. Although no significant outbreaks of animal diseases were reported, animals have a weak nutritional status and are generally susceptible to diseases.

  • Future trends: Farmers lack liquidity and access to credit, while the prices of inputs are increasing. Prices of subsidized inputs, including fuel and fertilizers, increased in 2020/21, and the provision of fertilizers at subsidized prices ceased in June 2021. Seeds are likely to be difficult to source due to the drastically reduced 2021 harvest, and seed quality is expected to be poor, with low germination rates. However, farmers lacking feasible economic livelihood alternatives continue to cultivate their lands, often using less intensive production methods and lower amounts of inputs.

  • In response to the challenges faced by farmers in the 2020/21 season, immediate action is required to support the agricultural sector and prevent further erosion of productive assets. Past crop assessment missions advocated for a transition away from emergency and basic livelihood support to the recovery and reconstruction of the agricultural sector. This year, however, the urgent delivery of emergency support is critical as the upcoming season is likely to be affected by below-average precipitation and inadequate availability of quality seeds. The aim of emergency support would be to mitigate shortages and improve access to inputs, ensuring sufficient supplies of diesel at official rates for farming operations, and to avert destocking of animals due to high feed costs.