Wheat-to-Bread Infrastructure in Southern Syria, July 2017


Executive Summary

The wheat-to-bread market in southern Syria was critically disrupted when the government cut off services to opposition-controlled areas at the beginning of the conflict in 2011. This supply severance created shortages of flour and bread that continue today, compounded by the effects of prolonged conflict.

RFSAN undertook this assessment at the request of the Whole of Syria (WoS) Food Security Sector (FSS) to develop a detailed understanding of the wheat-to-bread market, how this market is manifested through infrastructure, and ascertain the greatest barriers to meeting bread needs in southern Syria. RFSAN enumerators, as well as enumerators from Syrian NGO Afak assessed 63 bakeries, 10 mills and two silos across 94 villages in Dar’a, Quneitra, and As-Sweida governorates, through key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and consultations with local councils.

The assessment found gaps in every step of the wheat-to-bread supply line. The south of Syria does not grow enough wheat to be self-sufficient, producing an estimated 80% of its own need in 2016. This gap increases significantly when looking at flour. The assessment suggested that local milling contributes only 15% of the flour needed to serve the population while humanitarian aid meets 30-40%. This suggests that as much as half of total flour need is left unmet. All 94 local councils identified the lack of flour as the biggest challenge to meeting bread need.

Infrastructure mapping illustrated that bakery systems in the south have proven relatively resistant to conflict. Distinct regions of interconnected infrastructure centered around private and public bakeries have developed in eastern Dar’a and western Dar’a/Quneitra.

As local production remains lacking, large amounts of flour distributed as aid has kept bread prices constant and affordable. However, there are signs that it is distorting the market for flour. While economies of scale were found to exist for all other key inputs, it was not observed in bulk flour purchasing. The lower cost of, and preference for, imported white flour could be hampering local production.

Further understanding the scope and depth of the gap in local flour production is crucial to improving bread production. Those surveyed indicated price and unavailability of key inputs, especially fuel, wheat, and flour, to be the major bottlenecks at all steps across the supply chain.
Repeated assessments are necessary to refine findings and allow for trend tracking.