Cigarette Butt Could Burn Hundreds of Acres: Agricultural Season Without Harvesters in Homs

Wheat combine harvester in agricultural land in Idlib - June 12, 2017 (Enab Baladi)

Wheat combine harvester in agricultural land in Idlib - June 12, 2017 (Enab Baladi)


Homs countryside – Wheat plants remain upright in agricultural lands in Homs, despite the fact that the harvest began 15 days ago, the wheat harvests are still standing in agricultural land in Homs. Farmers are waiting for combine harvesters, which are nowhere to be found in the area.

The absence of harvesters warns of a real disaster that could affect farmers in the region if the issue is not resolved without further delay. Moreover, the fear of fires haunts farmers around the clock, especially if a simple spark or a cigarette butt could burned hundreds of dunams in less than an hour.

The areas cultivated with wheat in Homs during the current season are estimated at 35,672 hectares, with about 43,000 hectares of barley. The Directorate of Agriculture in Homs estimates the wheat production in governorate during the current agricultural season at about 52,000 tons, according to the regime’s state news agency SANA on May 9.

The Government is Unable to Secure Harvesters

The concerned authorities in the region are not interested in the subject, perhaps because of their inability to offer a solution to the growing problem.

Abu Luqman, a farmer from the city of al-Rastan, wondered about the absence of the “state,” which talks daily about its provision of services. He said, “So far, we have not seen any harvester, and are wheat plants will soon wither to the ground.”

Agriculture engineer Abu Ahmed from Talbiseh, who asked not to be named, said that farmers are facing the costs of agriculture after the departure of NGOs and their projects from the region, after signing a reconciliation agreement with the regime in May last year. He indicated that the regime’s governmental institutions are unable to bear the burden of supporting the farmers with anything beyond seed, and the crisis of harvesters is proof of that.

Abu Ahmed said to Enab Baladi that those involved, whether in farmers’ associations or the agriculture administration, are unable to secure harvesters for this year’s crops. If they manage the harvesters, they remain unable to secure fuel to operate them, as is currently happening in the area of Salamiyah in ​​rural Hama, despite the presence of harvesters which are parked due to fuel shortages.

High Cost of Harvest

In the context of securing the harvesters, farmers face a problem of another kind, namely the rent costs for harvesters. The cost of harvesting a danum is not yet determined in the northern Homs countryside, but indicators suggest that costs have more than doubled since last year.

Abu Luqman predicted a hike in costs compared to the last season, which was at 4,500 SYP per dunam, when the cost of diesel fuel was at 300 SYP per liter. This year, the cost of a liter of diesel fuel stands at 600 SYP, in the absence of harvesters, as Abu Luqman said, “if we harvest this year, we will be under the mercy of harvester owners.”

For his part, Abu Numair, who owns a harvester in a village in rural Homs, said that the cost of harvesting is normal. “There is no trace of diesel fuel in gas stations, so we have to buy it from the black market. Also, costs maintenance and spare parts have risen, as last year they cost 20,000 SYP, while this year they cost 60,000 SYP.”

Abu Numair predicted to Enab Baladi that, “the cost of harvesting one dunam is 8,500 SYP, which is a normal price compared to the costs of diesel fuel and maintenance.” A farmer in the village of al-Damina, Abu Jaber, said he is forced to harvest at high costs due to the absence of harvesters.

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