Croop and Food Security İn Syria 2018
A joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Mission (CFSAM) visited the Syrian Arab Republic between 25 June and 19 July 2018 to estimate crop production and to assess the overall food security situation.
On arrival in the country, the international members of the CFSAM team spent five days in Damascus prior to going to the field. During that time, they held meetings with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform (MAAR) and a number of other relevant ministries and state bodies of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. Following two weeks of data collection in the field in six governorates, the CFSAM team returned to Damascus to be briefed by MAAR officials who had collected further data independently in all governorates, and, most importantly, in governorates that the international team had been unable to visit. This was followed by a second round of meetings with the main technical directorates of MAAR. Prior to departure from the country, the Mission briefed the Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform on its main findings.
To ensure an impartial and independent assessment of the country’s crop production and food security situation, information provided by Government institutions was critically examined, triangulated and cross-checked with direct field observations where possible and compared with information gathered from other sources. These sources included interviews with the staff of governorate agricultural directorates, farmers, millers, traders, livestock owners, displaced, resident and returnee households, and other key informants, as well as satellite imagery, rainfall records and brief governorate reports produced by small teams of national officers. Focus group discussions were held, with women and men separately, with displaced and resident households in all governorates visited in both rural and urban settings. In addition, wholesale and retail food and livestock markets were visited in various locations. The source of the food price data is WFP price monitoring. To estimate the number of people in need, the CFSAM included a household survey covering 6 012 households across the country. The findings were complemented by data from WFP’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) collected since January 2018 as well as data and information made available by the Syrian Arab Republic’s Food Security Sector.
Like in previous years, a pre-CFSAM study was prepared to widen the information available to the Mission members. This year’s study was prepared by the National Agricultural Policy in cooperation with the General Organization for Remote Sensing (GORS). Details are discussed later in the document in the Production section.
Unfortunately, the timing of the 2018 Mission was later in the year than had been the case in previous years, with the result that most of the cereal crop had already been harvested by the time of the Mission’s visit. This necessitated an increased emphasis on the triangulation of information from different sources.
Prior to going to the field the Mission held meetings in Damascus with MAAR, the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), General Establishment for Cereal Trade and Processing (HOBOOB), the Ministry of the Environment and Local Administration, the General Organization for Feed (GOF), General Organization of Remote Sensing (GORS), the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection, and the Ministry of Economy.
Representations of international and national organisations in Damascus, such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) were also consulted.
In the field, the Mission visited six of the country’s 13 rural governorates: Aleppo, Hasakeh, Hama, Homs, Tartous and Rural Damascus. In these governorates, the Mission held meetings with technical staff of the agriculture directorates, farmers, livestock breeders, traders and households, and visited livestock markets and wholesale farm-produce markets.
Figures for cereal areas planned, planted and harvested were provided by MAAR, and the agricultural directorates in the governorates that the Mission visited corroborated these figures. Yield estimates were also provided by MAAR and the technical staff of the agricultural directorates. These estimates were critically reviewed by the Mission and, where deemed necessary, modified in light of other available information. Much of this additional information emanated from interviews with farmers, and included planting time, seed rates, the availability and use of certified seed and fertilizers, and the availability and reliability of irrigation. Other information included rainfall records and decadal satellite imagery showing rainfall anomalies (from the long-term average), Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), soil moisture stress and Agricultural Stress Index (ASI).
The only standing cereal crops that the Mission saw were in Rural Damascus. However, when possible, the Mission inspected harvested wheat that was still in the field awaiting threshing. This provided an estimate of the size of ear, the weight and number of grains per ear, and the general condition of the grain, particularly with regard to fungal infection, and gave a proxy indication of the reliability or otherwise of farmers’ yield estimates.
HOBOOB provided an overview of the amount of grain that it had bought from the different governorates compared with previous years, while farmers and agricultural directorates were able to give an indication of the proportion of grain that had been rejected by HOBOOB on the grounds of inadequate grain size, poor grain quality, or unacceptably high moisture content.
On its return from the field, the Mission met independent teams of MAAR staff who had visited all the rural governorates and reported on their agricultural condition and prospects in accordance with a checklist provided by the Mission. The Mission discussed the teams’ findings and impressions critically with each of the teams individually. Later, the Mission discussed its own findings and impressions as well as those of the independent teams with the technical staff of MAAR in order to arrive at credible yield and production estimates for each governorate.
BACKGROUND AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONTEXT
Conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic, now in its eighth year, and its aftermath, continue to negatively impact the already severe economic and social situation in the country. The conflict in the past year became more localised, with limited reconstruction efforts getting underway. After 6 years to economic contraction, diving to over 20 percent in 2012 and 2013, the GDP growth in 2017 reached 1.9 percent. A stronger GDP growth of 6.2 percent is forecast for 2018 as modest reconstruction efforts continue likely hampered by lack of finances and depleted workforce. The ESCWA estimates the volume of destruction in physical capital and its sectoral distribution reaching over USD 388 billion, while the actual physical cost of destruction to be close to USD 120 billion1.
Inflation in 2017 (January-May, last information available) eased to an estimated 33 percent, down from over 47 percent in 2016, reflecting relative stabilisation of local currency although supply bottlenecks driven by localised fighting continue to exercise an upward pressures on price levels. The official exchange rate for the USD (US Dollar) against the SYP (Syrian Pound) was set by the Central Bank of the Syrian Arab Republic in June 2017 at SYP 517 per USD2. The current official exchange rate is fixed at SYP 434 to the USD. The rate on the parallel market is currently around SYP 440 to the USD. The pre-conflict exchange rate in 2011 was SYP 47 per USD.
The unemployment rate is estimated at about 50 percent (although precise statistics are missing), up from about 10 percent at the beginning of the conflict. At the same time many, civil servants in particular, continue to juggle several jobs to be able to cover high cost of living.
Immediately prior to the crisis, the Syrian Arab Republic used to produce about 380 000 barrels of crude oil and condensates per day, down from a peak of almost 600 000 bbl/d in the mid-1990s (US Energy Information Administration), and oil sales generated some 25 percent of the Syrian Arab Republic’s total revenue (EIU). Production slumped dramatically in 2011 and currently remains down to about 30 000 bbl/d. Before the conflict, oil exports provided up to 30 percent of the Government’s fiscal revenue. Conflict and sanctions virtually stopped oil exports (apart from some smuggled fuel out of IS- and Kurdish-held areas) although the country’s two refineries still retain some processing capacity. However, sanctions prohibit imports of spare parts, constraining economic activity. Syrian Arab Republic continues to rely heavily on external financial support (largely from the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation), as well as assistance from humanitarian agencies.
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