Greenhouse crops reduce vegetable prices in Idlib
Enab Baladi – Idlib
Prices of vegetables in the northwestern city of Idlib have witnessed a remarkable decrease after the start of selling greenhouse vegetables in the markets at prices lower than imported vegetables.
The price decrease activated the movement of buying and selling and increased the residents’ desire to buy in slightly larger quantities than in the previous period.
“Flourish” in buying and selling
Hamza Musleh, 41, a vegetable trader, is optimistic about the increase in his sales in Idlib compared to what they were in the past due to the decrease in prices due to the introduction of locally produced vegetables in greenhouses.
Musleh told Enab Baladi that prices increased at the beginning of the month of Ramadan, which narrowed the options of customers, who now buy small quantities, and the prices prevented most residents from having a salad dish on the iftar meal.
The trader explained that since the start of harvesting greenhouse crops in early April, the prices of vegetables began to decline gradually to become acceptable, which led to an improvement in sales.
At the beginning of the month of Ramadan, on March 23, the price of a kilo of cucumbers was 29 Turkish Liras, zucchini 27 TL, and tomatoes 16 TL, but after the influx of local crops into the markets, prices decreased by almost half, which enabled citizens to buy vegetables.
Hasnaa al-Saado, 45, an Idlib-based housewife, told Enab Baladi that at the beginning of the month of Ramadan, she relied on cooking rice meals that do not require vegetables due to the high prices. She also dispensed with preparing salads and the traditional “Fattoush” dish due to its high costs.
Al-Saado added to Enab Baladi that she started buying vegetables to prepare some dishes, with the current decline in prices compared to the previous one.
Huda al-Muzayen, an IDP housewife based in Idlib in her fifties, said that it is necessary to diversify the types of food in Ramadan, to meet the wishes of the fasting children.
Some foods that require vegetables, such as “Mahashi” (Eggplant or zucchini stuffed with rice, vegetables, and meat), are expensive. Now the family can prepare it, al-Muzayen added.
Increased reliance on greenhouses
Greenhouses have become one of the main choices for farmers of northern Syria, although it is a “sensitive” process and requires care and specific environmental conditions.
Farmers focus on this cultivation to increase their financial returns and cover the market’s need for various types of vegetables.
Hussein al-Abbas, an agricultural engineer working in the sale of greenhouse supplies in Idlib, told Enab Baladi that the main crops that farmers grow in northern Syria through the “plastic tunnels” technique are cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and eggplants.
The flow of these crops to the market during the current production period contributes to lowering prices for the benefit of consumers.
Residents could not buy vegetables or buy only small quantities because the markets depended mainly on imported vegetables with high prices, in addition to the costs of import, transportation, and storage.
Al-Abbas added that these crops have revived the vegetable trade in the northwest region, and the warmer the weather, the greater the production, which means an increase in supply and lower prices in the near future.
Hazem Othman, 48, a farmer who relies on greenhouses, believes that the vegetables produced by farmers in northern Syria are distinguished by their quality, large production, rapid ripening, and the proximity of the planting sites to the main markets.
This reduces transportation costs and enables merchants to dispense with imported vegetables with high prices.
Many farmers use plastic tunnels or greenhouses because of the good profits they generate in the event of a successful season, but farmers face many risks and difficulties that may incur heavy losses.
According to the agricultural engineer Hussein al-Abbas, the first difficulties that farmers face in early cultivation are plowing and preparing the land for cultivation, as the lands are wet due to the continuous rains and the extremely cold climate.
Farmers also suffer from difficulties in preparing the tunnels, the high prices of materials and plastic used in agriculture, and difficulties in placing seedlings inside the tunnels and planting them.
This agriculture faces great risks that may lead to heavy losses, such as storms and winds of more than 40 kilometers per hour, which lead to the dislocation and tearing of greenhouses and the breaking of seedlings, al-Abbas said.
He added to Enab Baladi that frost waves are the greatest danger that threatens farmers every year, which prompts a large number of them not to plant using the tunneling technique. However, frost waves this year were acceptable and simple, not dangerous to crops, which means abundant crop production this season.
The engineer pointed out that high temperatures lead to the rupture of greenhouses, burns in plant leaves, and damage to crops. Therefore, a large number of farmers resort to harvesting fruits early and removing greenhouses.
Farmer Hazem Othman told Enab Baladi about other difficulties related to the high costs of agriculture and fertilizers, in addition to the high costs of groundwater extraction and irrigation operations on which greenhouses depend.
Among the risks that the farmer faces is the infection of crops with fungal diseases due to excessive moisture and the high costs of medicines.
On March 18, 19, and 20, most regions of Syria were subjected to heavy rains, varying from one region to another, and the Syria Civil Defense recorded direct damage to 112 dunams (Dunam = 900 m2) cultivated with summer crops that depend on greenhouses, such as beans, cucumbers, courgette, and tomatoes, in addition to lands cultivated with cumin and wheat crops, northwestern Syria.
The Civil Defense said that the damage affected irrigation networks that feed more than 100 dunams in the Adwan area in the al-Roj Plain, west of Idlib after the flood waters submerged the agricultural lands.
On March 30 and 31, an air storm caused great damage to a number of agricultural crops.
On the 23rd of the same month, Tammam al-Hamoud, head of the agriculture directorate in the Salvation Government in northern Syria, said that 635 dunams were damaged as a result of the flood during the depression, and the damage varied between flooding and erosion.
Local farmers said that the damage exceeded half of the season and affected the roots and leaves of squash and cucumber crops and some of them estimated the damage at 60%, and they also appealed to the concerned authorities to help according to the available capabilities.
Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Idlib, Anas al-Khouli, contributed to this report.
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