Syria’s Wheat Production Plunges Amid Violence, UN FAO Says

Syria’s wheat harvest may be 14 percent smaller than a year earlier as farmers reduced planting amid violence in the country and high production costs, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

Wheat production in Syria may drop to 2.4 million metric tons, compared with 2.8 million tons a year earlier, the Rome-based agency said in an online report dated July 12. The harvest will be “significantly lower” than the average production that exceeded 4 million tons annually in the 10 years prior to the 2010-11 season, it said. Total grain production, including wheat, barley, corn and other cereals, may be 3.48 million tons, 8 percent less than a year earlier.

“Less area was planted to cereals due to high costs of production, reduced input availability including labor, prevailing violence, related damage to farm equipment, and abandoned land,” the FAO said. “Power cuts, damage to power stations, canals, and pumps; and high diesel costs contributed to a decline of the area under irrigated cereal production.”

Livestock herds also are declining, with poultry production expected to drop 50 percent from 2011 levels, while sheep output shrinks 35 percent and cattle production falls 25 percent, the FAO said. Some Syrian farmers are selling livestock to neighboring countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq because of higher prices, and there are shortages of vaccines for animals, it said.

“With the virtual loss of veterinary services within Syria, livestock diseases are being transmitted to neighboring countries, thereby posing a potentially serious regional animal-health problem,” the FAO said.

Syria’s grain import requirement may climb 5 percent from the previous year, with wheat purchases needing to total about 1.47 million tons in 2013-14, the FAO said. Average monthly prices for wheat flour have more than doubled in some areas since 2011 because of conflicts in the country, and prices for rice, vegetables and sugar also have surged. Almost 4 million people are facing food insecurity, according to the report.

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