Sluggish agricultural season in Homs due to royalties, ailing Lira
Homs – Orwah al-Mundhir
Despite the approaching end of this summer, most of Homs countryside farmers’ warehouses are still full of crops for various reasons, including security barriers’ imposition of royalties on vehicles transporting crops that not all farmers can pay, in addition to the decline in commercial activity as a result of the depreciation of the Syrian pound.
During the current year, the countryside of Homs witnessed an unprecedented recession in a number of agricultural crops, making farmers’ profits vulnerable to erosion with the depreciation of the Syrian pound and the increase in the costs of storage and sterilization that they pay in exchange for keeping their crops in warehouses.
Farmers in the Homs countryside rely mainly on anise, nigella, and cumin crops, as well as strategic crops that the government oversees its cultivation and marketing, such as wheat, barley, and a number of fruitful trees whose cultivation declined with the decreasing groundwater level.
Security, customs, and Fourth Division barriers restrict the movement of merchants between cities and impose royalties on them, resulting in a general decline in commercial traffic.
The depreciation of the Syrian pound against the dollar, and the promotion of its collapse, also drove many traders out of the markets due to fear that their losses could not be compensated.
Barriers crippling commercial traffic
Security barriers of the regime’s army and security detachments are deployed on junctions and main roads, and royalties are imposed on traders and farmers in exchange for the vehicle not being unloaded and then loaded again.
Abu Mahmoud, a resident of the village of Farhaniya and one of the most prominent grain merchants in the northern countryside of Homs, told Enab Baladi that he had to halve his trade rate after the restrictions the barriers began to impose on the grain trade.
The merchant, who had declined to state his explicit name for security reasons, explained that when passing through a security barrier, a grain transport vehicle is loaded with several tons. The barrier personnel require it to be unloaded to check its cargo unless sums of up to 25,000 Syrian pounds are sometimes paid.
The merchant considered that this restriction pushed small traders out of the grain market, which reduced the sales and purchases of seasonal crops.
This summer, the customs police intensified its patrols on the Homs-Hama international highway in conjunction with the commencement of the sale of seasonal crops, imposing royalties on both traders and farmers.
Youssef al-Khalil, a farmer in the city of al-Rastan, told Enab Baladi that the barriers and customs patrols do not distinguish between a merchant and a farmer and impose sums on everyone, crippling seasonal crops and causing them to stagnate in warehouses until now.
Apprehension over exchange rate
The Syrian pound is witnessing fluctuations in the exchange rate, causing many traders to exit the grain market for fear of collapses that could inflict the pound and cause them heavy losses.
Somer, a grain merchant in the al-Houla Plain, told Enab Baladi that the fluctuating exchange rate and fear of major collapses in the value of the pound took a number of traders out of the labor market because they could only conduct sales and purchases in Syrian pounds.
Somer added that the sale and repurchase of the US dollar is complicated because there are no offices or people who work in this profession, which renders the process rather complicated. If the pound depreciates, the seasonal crops do not catch up with this decline quickly, which exposes traders to losses because the capital’s valuation is carried out in US dollars.
Agricultural recession and loss
If farmers are unable to sell their seasonal crops, they must store and sterilize them for fear of spoilage, which increases their costs. Most farmers need to sell their crops in September.
Abdel Rahman, a farmer from the city of al-Rastan, told Enab Baladi that the stagnation of seasonal crops places farmers in a grave predicament because of their need for money, and because of the difficulty of storage and sterilization for fear of spoilage, with most farmers not having well-equipped warehouses.
A report by the Global Agriculture Monitoring program (GEOGLAM) examined the effects of the conflict in Syria over the past decade on agriculture and crop production.
The report of 21 January 2012 reported eight effects of the conflict on various sectors related to agriculture, production, and agricultural marketing, including lack of seeds, fertilizer and storage sites, damage to infrastructure and irrigation systems, high transport costs, and limited marketing.
GEOGLAM is an international program accredited by the Group of Twenty (G20) forum that aims to promote the use of Earth observations to enhance decision-making, action, and policy in the areas of food security and sustainable agriculture.
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