Wheat Stockpiles in Jordan Set to Climb to Meet Refugee Demands

  • Government wants to boost stockpiles to 1 million tons
  • Agriculture industry lost $700 million after borders closed

Wheat stockpiles in Jordan are set to increase 25 percent with the population ballooning from refugees crossing the border from Syria and Iraq.

Tenders will be issued “very soon” to expand silo capacity so stockpiles can be increased to 1 million metric tons from 800,000 tons, Jordan’s Agriculture Minister Akef Zu’bi said in an interview at his office in Amman on Sunday. Reserves are higher than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimate of 454,000 tons as of June. Jordan, with a population of about 8 million people, regularly tenders for wheat in the international market.

Iraq closed its border with Jordan indefinitely in June, partly to deprive Islamic State militants of revenue from taxes imposed on cargo trucks driving through their territory. Jordan shut access to Syria on security concerns. Iraq was Jordan’s largest agriculture export market, valued at an estimated $373 million in 2013, with Syria’s purchases at $67 million, according to a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service report in February.

"We want to have more reserve as we have more than 1.4 million Syrian refugees and demand on this basic item is increasing in light of a growing population,” Zu’bi said. “Having more capacity will also help us buy when prices are suitable." As of July 31, about 30,000 Iraqis were registered in Jordan, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.

Jordan’s agriculture industry lost about 500 million Jordanian dinars ($707 million) since the end of 2014 after the borders were shut, Zu’bi estimated. The government is preparing a 2016-2025 agriculture policy that includes focusing on the Persian Gulf area as a “strategic” area to boost exports, Zu’bi said. Jordan’s biggest agriculture products are tomotoes, milk, chickens, eggplant, cucumbers, olives, potatoes and watermelon, according to USDA’s FAS. The Cabinet is expected to endorse a new policy in the next few weeks, the agriculture minister said.