Wed 13 Nov 2019

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Daraa Suffers Unprofitable Tomato Season

Tomato harvest in Daraa - May 2019 (Ortas Radio and Television Centre in Daraa)

Tomato harvest in Daraa - May 2019 (Ortas Radio and Television Centre in Daraa)

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It was a year of high efficiency and abundant quantities of Tomato crop that Daraa province has witnessed this year. 

But still, the farmers were stricken with loss due to high production costs, which stripped them of the profit margin, supposed to cover the capital they invested and guarantee them some revenues.

The farmers were thus made vulnerable to financial losses during the summer harvest season.

Daraa’s farmers, cultivating tomato, could see the loss ahead of them, for the ongoing decline in the market price of the crop was a major indicator.

The soaring costs of production and ever-decreasing price of the crop on the al-Hal Market, according to the farmers, are the reason behind the losses and disproportionate profits.

Muhammad Abu al-Khair, a farmer from Tafas—town well-known for tomato cultivation in Daraa province—told Enab Baladi that tomatoes are sold on al-Hal markets at prices insufficient to cover production costs, including those of diesel, pesticides and fertilizers.

The diesel prices reached 400 Syrian pounds in the absence of government subsidies allocated for farmers this year, he added.

Abu al-Khair, 35 years old, said that tomatoes require an abundance of water, burdening the farmers further, already bothered by the high price of pesticides, organic fertilizers, chemical fertilizers and the spread of whitefly disease in tomato crops, necessitating a weekly usage of pesticides.

“All the above-mentioned reasons, in addition to the high wages demanded by the laborers boosted the production costs. But the striking thing is the low prices tomatoes are sold for on al-Hal market, which had a negative impact on all of us.”

On the other hand, Abu Hani, a vegetable truck driver between Daraa and al-Hal market in Damascus, told Enab Baladi that Daraa’s tomato harvest for this year was “plentiful.”

Abu Hani clarified that the reason for the tomato low prices on al-Hal market is the shrinking external export, leading to an excess of tomato crops, which, in turn, created a price gap, the two sides to which are the consumers and the farmers, who determine the price, that the merchants are exploiting.

“A kilo of tomatoes is sold for 60 pounds on the al-Hal market; however, my wife buys one kilo for 125 pounds from the grocery,” the driver said.

 

Industrial facilities fail to meet farmers’ expectations  

Since tomatoes are used in manufacturing tomato paste, farmers expect high demand for tomato by the factories, which will compensate them for the losses, particularly with the proliferation of factories in Daraa.

The Head of Daraa’s Agriculture Directorate, engineer Abdul Fattah Rahal, in an interview with the Syrian News Channel on September 14, noted that there are 26 tomato paste plants in Daraa province.

He assured that all of them are operating at full production capacity.

Nonetheless, Muhammad Abu al-Khair indicated that despite the plants’ massive production this year, they are not enough to take in the abundant quantities of tomato.

He added that these plants target the local market. They do not have the freedom to export their products abroad, accordingly affecting their demand for tomato and discouraging them from setting up additional production lines.

The Director of Daraa Chamber of Agriculture, Eng. Jamal Masalmeh, talked to Syria TV about the feeble demand for tomatoes, especially at the zenith of the season, stressing the need to find solutions to accommodate all farmers’ crops.

 

Cultivated areas doubled 

Tomato cultivated areas in Daraa province have doubled this year, compared to last year as the province witnessed remarkable progress in terms of cultivated areas, quality efficiency and productivity.

The area planted with tomatoes this season reached four thousand hectares, while  470 thousand tons are expected to be produced, the Engineer Saleh al-Miqdad, the Chief of the Planning Department in the Agriculture Directorate of the government of the Syrian regime, told the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on September 12.

Last year, 1450 hectares of land were planted with tomatoes and only 186,000 tons were produced.

Tomato is an important strategic crop in the province of Daraa, the crops of which meet the local markets’ need for tomato throughout Syria.

This year farmers were anticipating a considerable improvement in the prices of tomatoes after the reopening of the Nasib Border Crossing with Jordan, but the frail exportation movement has disappointed them.

 

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