No red meat at dinner tables in Daraa

Sheep grazing in Daraa - July 4, 2018 (Xinhua News Agency)

Sheep grazing in Daraa - July 4, 2018 (Xinhua News Agency)


Daraa – Halim Mohammad

Daraa Governorate has witnessed a gradual rise in meat prices since June, causing a sense of stagnation in the market and depriving the residents of the ability to purchase meat.

The price of a kilogram of lamb reached about 6,000 Syrian Pounds (SYP), after it was in the range of 4,500 SYP during the previous months. The price of a kilo of veal reached 5,000 SYP, after it used to be no more than 3,500 SYP in the past.

Meat has become “a forgotten item,” said housewife Um Samer, who asked not to be named for security reasons, pointing to Enab Baladi that her family’s income does not exceed 35,000 SYP a month, turning the purchase of meat “a luxury rather than a necessity.”

Her point of view is no stranger to the situation in Daraa and the whole of Syria, where the poverty rate reached 83 percent, according to UN estimates, as a result of eight years of conflict.

Recession in the market

Abu Riyad, a local butcher who asked not to be named for security reasons, described the market situation in the western countryside of Daraa as “stagnant” as a result of high prices.

He added to Enab Baladi: “We buy livestock at high prices and sell them to the citizen with a profit margin. However, after the increase of their prices, sales have significantly dropped,” with people more inclined towards the consumption of chicken as a less expensive alternative, as the price of one-kilogram amounts to 850 SYP.

Abu Riyad attributed the increase of prices of meat in Daraa Governorate to the export of large quantities through Nasib Border Crossing and the smuggling of sheep to neighboring countries.

While the opening of Syrian-Jordanian border crossing in mid-October 2018 returned hopes of revitalizing trade between the two countries, the recent statements by a board member of the Damascus Chamber of Industry, Maher al-Zayyat, poured cold water on this possibility.

Nasib Border Crossing has had no positive impact on Syrian exports, due to Jordanian laws and conditions that hindered the way of trade movement between the two countries, said al-Zayyat said during his interview with local radio station Melody FM on October 13.

Objective conditions

In a report issued on September 5, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) pointed out that as a general rule in livestock economics, in years of good rainfall, like this year, farmers, not faced with feed constraints, try to keep their animals for reproduction to increase their returns in the future.  Consequently, the prices of animal products (milk and dairy products) generally decrease as they are highly available, while the prices of meat increase because fewer animals are sold.

The organization’s mission, which visited the 14 Syrian governorates this year, to submit a detailed report on the situation of agriculture and livestock breeding in Syria, estimated the rise in prices of sheep meat on average across Syria from 3,000 SYP in 2017 and 2018 to 4,500 SYP early this year.

Like in most Syrian governorates, the number of livestock and sheep in Daraa governorate has been affected with a decline of 45 percent in the whole of Syria during the first years of the conflict, before settling for a limited period, and fluctuating again in the past two years.

In Daraa, the number of sheep according to the most recent census conducted by the Syrian government in 2010, reached 635,000 heads, which then declined by 7 percent by 2017 and rose again to reach 653,000 heads in 2018.

The number of goats was estimated at 109,000 heads in the governorate in 2010, which then decreased by 14 percent in 2018 to reach 94,000 heads. The cows registered the largest loss, as their numbers in the governorate decreased by 39 percent between 2010 and 2018, from 56,000 to 34,000 heads.

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