Daraa’s winter vegetables turned into fodder for livestock as economic hardships mount

A flock of sheep grazing in the cabbage crop in southern Daraa governorate - 3 January 2022 (Enab Baladi/Halim Muhammad)

A flock of sheep grazing in the cabbage crop in southern Daraa governorate - 3 January 2022 (Enab Baladi/Halim Muhammad)


Daraa – Halim Muhammad

The movement of selling vegetables in the central al-Hal markets in Daraa has witnessed a stagnation caused by a recession in the sale of vegetables that contributed to a decrease in prices, which negatively affected the farmers of the southern governorate.

The financial loss for farmers from Daraa was summed up by selling their crops as “pastures for livestock” due to the difficulty of selling them, according to what they told Enab Baladi.

The vegetable market in Daraa is considered a vital artery for other governorates, with Damascus at the forefront. The damage to this artery affects the two governorates, Daraa as an exporter and Damascus as an importer.

Crops are pastures

After the rise in fuel prices in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime, transportation between the governorates has weakened, including the trade in vegetables and fruits.

The drop in vegetable prices prompted farmer Khaled, 33, to sell his cabbage crop as a pasture for sheep, given that he was unable to sell it.

Khaled (full name withheld for security reasons) told Enab Baladi that the price of one kilogram of cabbage amounted to 300 SYP in the al-Hal market (the vegetable trade center).

While the cost of harvesting one kilogram amounted to 300 SYP and therefore selling it as pasture has become less lossy than selling it, according to Khaled.

“It hurts me to see the sheep eating the crop that I expected to sell at a high price,” he added.

The high cost of production and low prices have forced the farmer to open his fields to flocks of sheep for 100,000 Syrian pounds per dunum, thus saving the wages of harvesting the crop and transporting it to the market.

In addition to the previous difficulties in marketing, crop transport vehicles usually wait for more than two days in the al-Hal market in Damascus to sell the load due to the lack of demand for agricultural crops.

Selling the crop as pasture did not spare the farmer financial loss, as the cost of production per dunum amounted to more than 600,000 Syrian pounds, while he sells it today at a price of 100,000 pounds, according to Khaled.

Regarding the reasons why these crops cannot be transported to the Damascus governorate, Khaled said that the cost of shipping alone reaches 400 SYP per kilogram of cabbage, and therefore the cost of shipping alone is more expensive than the price of the crop if it can be sold in Damascus, not to mention the workers’ wages and prices of plastic boxes needed to pack vegetables.

The drop in vegetable prices was not limited to cabbage but also included cauliflower, lettuce, parsley, and all “winter ripening” crops, according to other farmers interviewed by Enab Baladi.

Reasons for stagnation

The increase in the price of diesel fuel has weakened freight traffic between the governorates, which has led to an increase in the supply of vegetables in the al-Hal markets in Daraa.

Vegetable crops are now widely available in the market, most of which are in excess of the market’s need, with a decrease in purchasing demand.

The price of one liter of diesel recently reached 10,000 Syrian pounds, while its price did not exceed 6,500 Syrian pounds in November 2022.

Despite the arrival of an oil tanker to the Baniyas refinery on 30 December 2022, fuel prices are still witnessing an increase in all Syrian governorates.

Munther, 45, is a farmer who decided to produce crops of cabbage, beans, and cauliflower, but he was unable to sell them outside the governorate, as the fare for a transport vehicle to Damascus reached 800,000 Syrian pounds.

Munther mentioned that the al-Hal market in the city of Tafas was teeming with merchants from Damascus and the Syrian governorates before the fuel crisis that the country has been witnessing since the beginning of December 2022.

According to the latest list published by the Damascus-based al-Watan newspaper about the prices of vegetables, the price of one kilogram of cabbage reached 500 pounds at the wholesale price and 600 pounds at the retail price (the price directed to the consumer).

According to Munther, the oil crisis was reflected in the cost of supplying vegetables to Damascus, and its destination was shifted to the al-Hal markets in Daraa.

While the farmer, Mohammad, 65, attributed the reasons for the recession to the lack of export movement and to weather factors, as the warm weather contributed to the rapid growth of winter crops and their arrival in the al-Hal markets at an early time, which later reduced the demand for them.

Jaber, 56, a car driver who works on transporting goods and vegetables between Daraa and Damascus, told Enab Baladi that the export of crops to Damascus and the provinces declined after the rise in fuel prices, as farmers’ profit margins were “eroded” with the increase in shipping costs.

Fear of cholera

The spread of cholera in some Syrian governorates, including Daraa, since September 2022 contributed to the people’s cessation of buying vegetables, as it is considered one of the means of transmitting the disease.

While most of the winter vegetables are considered “leafy,” such as lettuce and cabbage, most of them are exposed to contact with water, and therefore the possibility of infection with the virus through them is higher than others.

With Jordan suspending the import of vegetables from Syria, the sector was affected, as it was considered an “external outlet” that revived the prices of vegetables produced in Daraa and other regions of Syria.

On 20 September 2022, Jordan suspended the import of vegetables and fruits coming from Syria for fear of an outbreak of the cholera epidemic, coinciding with international reports talking about the spread of the virus in Syria.

The suspension coincided with the issuance of a circular by the regime’s health affairs directorate, banning restaurants from adding leafy vegetables to sandwiches under penalty of closing the shop due to the spread of the virus.

While all decisions related to the virus contributed to the decline in vegetable prices and impacted the local market.


النسخة العربية من المقال

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