The conflict in Syria has halved grains production, besides destroying
many poultry farms and threatening livestock herds with starvation, the United
Syria's agriculture sector has been left "in tatters" by the
civil war, now nearly two years old, between rebels and the regime of Bashar
al-Assad, a mission to the country by the UN's food agency, the Food and
Agriculture Organization, found.
The FAO delegates found that poultry production, a source of
cheap animal protein "has been severely hit", with "many farms destroyed" in
the conflict areas of Homs, Hama and Idleb.
The unrest has also prevented the movement of livestock to
grazing areas, and animals' "survival is compromised by the lack of animal feed",
besides a shortage of veterinary drugs, the importation of which is hampered by
In cereals, the FAO estimated Syria's combined barley and
wheat crop – the great majority of cereals production - last year at less than
UN FAO estimates for Syrian barley and wheat harvests
2012 - "less than 2m tonnes" combined
2011 - 800,000 tonnes: 3.25m tonnes
2010 - 900,000 tonnes: 3.60m tonnes
2006-10 average - 799,000 tonnes: 3.68m tonnes
"Only 45% of farmers were able to fully harvest their cereal
crops," with one-in-seven growers unable to harvest at all "due to insecurity and
lack of fuel".The lack of fuel, combined with damage to water channels,
has also cut farmers' ability to irrigate crops.
The estimate for the barley and wheat harvests compares with
a December forecast by the FAO of more than 3m tonnes, and is less than half
the 4.0m-4.5m tonnes of the cereals that Syrian farmers would reap in a normal
The US Department of Agriculture, whose grains estimates are
particularly closely watched by investors, pegs last year's wheat harvest at
3.7m tones, and barley production at 800,000 tonnes.
The latest FAO estimates imply a need for significant grain
imports by Syria, which typically consumes some 4.5m tonnes of wheat a year,
and 1.0m tonnes of barley.
However, while wheat and other foods are excluded from
Western trade sanctions imposed on the country because of the government's
heavy-handed suppression of the uprising, curbs on banking transactions have
acted to deter international traders from participating in Syrian tenders.
This has meant Syrian buyers purchasing grain through intermediaries,
in Asia and the Middle East, often at higher prices than other imports pay.
Last month, Syria's grains agency paid about $408 a tonne,
including freight, for milling wheat, thought sourced from the Black Sea.
Egypt paid some $50 a tonne less, including shipping, the
same day, albeit for US soft red winter wheat, potentially of a lower spec than
the bread-making grain purchased by Syria.
Syria has also made purchases of 100,000 tonnes of wheat in
November, and twice in October, plus a 50,000-tonne order in September.
It is also known to have imported at least 25,000 tonnes of French
barley earlier this month.