Syria Wheat: Reward of US50 Cents per Kg
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In Syria, the Syrian Civil War decimated the country’s Wheat production. Before the outbreak of the conflict, over forty percent of Syria’s workforce was employed in agriculture or agricultural-related industries, and the country was primarily able to meet the food needs of its population. The decline of Wheat production has been due to the large-scale damage to agricultural production, which is significantly below pre-conflict levels, and environmental factors, as Wheat production has been severely hindered by drought and the impact of climate change.
The Middle East is the largest importer of Wheat in the world. The structural weaknesses of most Middle Eastern economies, with the notable exceptions of the affluent and hydrocarbon rich Gulf States, have underscored the significant impact on food security, particularly in Syria, which is still grappling with its over a decade-long civil war. The country has a population of 21.5 million.
According to the United Nations, Syria’s Wheat production in 2021 has been estimated at around 1.05 million tons, down from 2.8 million in 2020 and only one-quarter of the pre-civil war average of 4.1 million tons (during 2002-2011). This drastic decline in production was exacerbated by one of the worst harvests on record and put Syria in a debilitating state. The result led to rampant food insecurity impacting over sixty percent of the population, or 12 million people, according to the UN and the World Food Program.
The lack of available grain leads to the development of a significant black market, with the Government unable to secure considerable Wheat reserves. This has been further complicated by the multiple centers of grain production within Syria and its significant political consequences. The primary center of Syrian grain production has historically been in the northeast of the country, surrounding the Euphrates River, a territory currently controlled by the majority Kurdish, US-allied Syrian Defense Forces (SDF). The result has been fierce competition for the spoils of the Wheat harvest. While most Wheat farmers living in territory under SDF control prefer to sell their Wheat to the local Government, Damascus has sought to blackmail farmers to sell their crops to the regime. They also incentivized grain purchase from “unsafe areas,” regions outside regime control, increasing with a reward of 400 pounds (about 50 US cents) per kilogram of Wheat above the standard price of 1700 Syrian pounds.
Key Wheat Supplier to Syria
Russia is Syria’s close ally. In response to the decreased domestic supply of the past year, Syria had to import over one and a half million tons of Russian Wheat following the signing of a bilateral trade deal in 2021. The steep decline of Syria’s grain production has been particularly emphasized amongst environmental publications and outlets, underscoring Syria’s dire situation and deepening dependence on Russia.
With all of Syria’s domestic complications, the broader international outlook does not look promising for the war-torn state. The significant decrease in domestic Wheat production forced Syria to be even more dependent on Russian imports, further isolating Syria internationally following the implementation of substantial international sanctions against Moscow.
With global supply severely hindered by countries such as India hoarding their Wheat, Syria’s situation will continue to be dire. The result will be a continued reliance on Russia, only further underscoring the weakness and disunity of the Syrian state. As per AgFlow data, Russia shipped 735,000 tons of Wheat to Syria in 2021 – 2022, followed by Ukraine (156,000 tons).
Other sources: DAYAN
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