Fri 30 Oct 2020

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Impact of high temperature on olive yield in Syria’s Qunaitra

A young man picking olives in the countryside of Qunaitra - 2018 (smart)

A young man picking olives in the countryside of Qunaitra - 2018 (smart)

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Enab Baladi – Qunaitra 

The olive trees have become drought-stricken, after a season in which the temperatures rose sharply, reaching “unprecedented” degrees in the southern countryside of Qunaitra.

“The olive harvest will not be bumper as the last year’s,” said Ali al-Ahmad, speaking of his land.

After two years of work to restore the land that had been under fire for five years, the 50-something-years old man had a “good” harvest in 2019, according to his estimation.

His ten dunums’ land produced six tons of olives, which are approximately 110 “tanks” of olive oil. However, al-Ahmad’s land production in the current year has decreased by “30 percent and so has the production of agricultural lands of the people of the region,” he added to Enab Baladi.

Extreme heat and rising costs

Temperatures have reached 40 degrees during the summer months, as did not exceed more than  33 degrees Celsius before. 

 Quneitra is the fourth Syrian governorate in terms of rainfall amounts, according to the statistical data of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform of the Syrian government for the year 2018. 

However, Quneitra has become of the drought-affected areas.

The heatwave caused olive fruits to wither and dry while they are still in the flowering stage, according to some farmers interviewed by Enab Baladi.

“The high temperatures affected the olive trees adversely. Olive fruits got shriveled and small, others fell, while some trees were harmed by rising heat,” said Ali al-Ahmad.

Al-Ahmad’s agricultural land in the southern countryside of Quneitra survived the firebombings even though the Syrian regime forces had stationed posts near it since 2013.

Olive trees remained vegetive despite being subjected to logging by the residents of the area. Nonetheless, the scarcity of water and the high prices of medicines and pesticides stopped the land restoration during the current year.

The shortage of rainfalls, lack of care, and elevated temperatures shriveled the trees, affecting olive trees’ oil concentration.  Arable land in Quneitra makes 85 percent; only 20 percent of the land is invested while the lands actually cultivated amount to 6 percent of the total land area. The area under irrigation constitutes 26 percent of cropland, according to the Syrian regime’s ministry data. 

The prices of agricultural medicines locally produced, such as Malathion, given during the flowering stage, tripled from six thousand to 18 thousand Syrian pounds (SYP- 2.5 USD to 7.75 USD ). In contrast, the price of foreign agricultural medicine amounted to 27 thousand SYP (11.6 USD), which caused a decrease in olive production.

An agricultural engineer in the Quneitra Directorate of Agriculture, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security considerations, estimated that the governorate’s production this year is less than 20 thousand tons of olive fruits and three thousand tons of olive oil, compared to more than 25 thousand tons produced in 2019.

The olive tree is grown in 44 percent of the cultivated land in Quneitra, at a rate of 135,000 fruit trees, despite the decrease in the area of ​​land planted with olive trees between 2014 and 2018 in Syria by four thousand hectares from 697 thousand hectares to 693 thousand. As a result, the number of fruit trees decreased by ten million and 319 thousand trees. However, the production, according to government figures, increased from 392 thousand tons to 665 thousand.

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