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Grain crisis in Syria

Зърнена криза в Сирия

When we talk about grain trade, we naturally focus on developed markets. Only after the start of the war in Ukraine, the European Community spoke about poor countries, food security, etc.

However, the solidarity that has been demonstrated so far is only 3% - this is the amount of grain that, with the mediation of the UN, passed through the Black Sea Corridor and reached the countries in need.

That is why today we pay attention to Syria - what is the production in the country, how are the local markets developing and where do they get grain from.

Once self-sufficient and a grain exporter, today Syria is one of the most food-poor countries in the world. Behind this are the five calamities that have poured in successively - a 13-year civil war, a drought, the global COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of the war in Ukraine and the most recent massive earthquake have destroyed Syria's people, economy and infrastructure.

By the end of 2022, an estimated 12.1 million people – 55% of the population – are food insecure, the sixth highest level in the world. Another 2.9 million people are at risk of becoming food insecure, an increase of 52% in one year.

The nation's gross domestic product shrank by more than half between 2010 and 2020, the World Bank said, prompting it to reclassify Syria as a low-income country. The devaluation of the local currency led to rampant inflation and extreme poverty.

Agriculture is an important part of the economy, accounting for 20% of GDP and providing employment to a quarter of the population. Wheat is the most important food crop and sugar beet production is also significant.

Drought in 2021 resulted in a record low wheat production of 1.05 million tonnes and continued dry conditions combined with shortages of agricultural inputs kept wheat yields low in 2022 (1.95 million tonnes).

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that wheat production in 2023-24 will reach 2.8 million tonnes, which remains below the five-year average of 3.1 million tonnes.

Damage estimates from the 7.7 magnitude earthquake suggest that food production will be severely affected by damage to farms, irrigation systems and farm machinery. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said there would be a sharp impact on the next wheat crop as people focused on the emergency.

Before the Civil War, the nation produced 4 million tons of wheat annually. According to news reports, Syria imported more than 500,000 tons of wheat in 2022 from Russian-annexed Crimea, 17 times more than it imported the previous year. Wheat is mainly imported through the ports of Latakia and Tartus and through the Beirut-Damascus road axis.

As long as there are countries around the world with similar statistics, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe in the solidarity proclaimed by world leaders.

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