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Syria to pay farmers more for their wheat: report

FILE PHOTO: Men display wheat in Ras al-Ain, Syria September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Rodi Said
2019-05-01

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SULAIMANI — The Syrian government has raised the price it pays farmers for their wheat after the smallest crop in three decades in 2018, a pro-government newspaper said on Wednesday (May 1).

Syria is expected to import around 1.5 million tons of mainly Russian wheat this year with local wheat procurement expected at around half a million tons. War and drought has cut the country’s production by around 30 percent, according to Reuters.

The decline in output has pressured President Bashar al-Assad’s government to import the grain in a country once self-sufficient in wheat. Flat bread is a subsidized staple for Syrians who have suffered under a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and urpooted millions.

Of the total wheat produced in 2018, state grain buyer Hoboob is estimated to have purchased only about 21 percent.

Syria will now give farmers 185,000 Syrian pounds ($359.22) per ton, a nearly 5.7 percent increase from last year’s price, al-Watan newspaper cited the internal trade minister as saying after a cabinet session on Tuesday. Ministers also agreed to allocate 400 billion Syrian pounds ($776.70 million) to pay money owed to farmers within 24 hours.

“The cabinet asked governors to take their responsibility to extract every grain of wheat” across the country, it added

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has said most farmers prefer selling to those with the highest prices, so some of the wheat goes to private traders or filters across the borders to Turkey and Iraq.

A big part of Syria’s agricultural heartland in the north lies in the hands of Kurdish-led fighters with the help of U.S. forces since they seized it from Islamic State militants.

Western sanctions do not restrict foodstuffs, but banking sanctions and asset freezes have made it difficult for most trading houses to do business with Damascus, although trade with its ally Russia poses fewer problems.

Internal Trade Minister Atef Naddaf said that a recent decision to combine the state silos, mills and grain buyer into one institution helps reduce waste and simplify the work, state news agency SANA also said on Tuesday.

(NRT Digital Media/Reuters)