Qamishli: Obstacles hinder wheat delivery to AANES silos
Enab Baladi – Majd al-Salem
In front of one of the centers receiving wheat stocks in the northeastern city of Qamishli, dozens of trucks lined up behind each other for several kilometers, waiting to unload their cargo, some of which had been waiting for two days.
Farmer Hussein al-Jawad, 50, from the town of Jaza’a, told Enab Baladi that the crowding in front of the collection centers causes him great losses and an increase in expenses with every hour of delay.
Al-Jawad is one of the hundreds of farmers in northeastern Syria who are waiting for the wheat season, which is a strategic crop in Syria, especially within the grinding economic crisis that has been going on for more than 12 years.
The farmer is shipping his wheat production in an old freight car from the countryside of Jaza’a to the Qamishli silos receiving center.
The agreement with the truck owner stipulates a $150 freight charge, but after two days of waiting a turn, he has to pay $50 for each day of delay.
Al-Jawad’s troubles do not stop at waiting and increasing wages but rather extend to him having to sleep inside the truck sometimes, which is tiring and stressful for farmers who fear that their crops will be stolen from the trucks.
Al-Jawad called on the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) to speed up the procedures for receiving the crops from farmers and to open more centers.
No pricing control, all in dollars
Ahmed Jalal, from the southern countryside of Tel Hamis, told Enab Baladi that he is one of the farmers who paid 500 dollars as shipping fees.
“There is no price set by the concerned authorities” that forces owners of all kinds of trucks to adhere to, the farmer said.
It is up to the owners of large and small trucks to determine the prices in an “arbitrary” manner, according to Jalal, who accused the truck owners of exploiting the farmer and his need to sell his crops as soon as possible.
The increased demand for freight cars during the current days has made it difficult to find a means of transportation with which you can negotiate the freight price, Jalal added.
Drivers require that payment be made exclusively in dollars before receiving the crop invoice, even if this forces farmers to borrow “shipping expenses.”
The farmer demanded the formation of a committee by the AANES, consisting of the Peasants Union, the Transportation Office, and the head of the Truck Drivers, Control and Supply Union, to determine the freight price according to the distance and the waiting time for the truck in the grain center, and the farmer pays the truck owner a fare for each day.
On May 16, the AANES’ Agricultural Authority set shipping fees in Syrian pounds during the agricultural season, equivalent to 60 dollars for a distance between 1 and 10 kilometers, provided that the amount increases to 3,000 SYP for every 1 km after the specified distance, while the “waiting period (delay wage) was set at 50,000 Syrian pounds for each day of delay on farmers and silos.
($1=9000 SYP) according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar.
Trucks for transportation, guarding
Drivers told Enab Baladi that the transportation fees that they agree upon with the farmers are “normal and appropriate to a certain extent,” and it is better that they be in dollars because all the expenses that their cars need are in dollars, and that the farmer will take the value of his bill in dollars as well.
Ibrahim, a forty-year-old truck owner, told Enab Baladi that the process of shipping grain and standing in line for several days in the summer heat is exhausting and very tiring for drivers, who are exposed to many risks during the waiting period, especially at night.
He added that some drivers were blackmailed by some “drunk thugs” in Qamishli, and they took bags of wheat by threats, complaining of the absent guard patrols protecting the parked cars for several kilometers.
Therefore, truck owners have the right to take the agreed price because they work as guards over the wheat in addition to the transportation process, Ibrahim assured.
Ibrahim accused those in charge of the grain receiving centers of corruption and tampering with the waiting list, pointing out that there is a black market for selling turn tickets as the value of tickets amounts to about 500,000 Syrian pounds.
He said that the difference in the type of freight trucks also affects the speed of unloading the cargo, as dump trucks unload their cargo faster than those that need an unloading process with workers, and this also prolongs the waiting time in the queue.
For its part, the Autonomous Administration denied the existence of any statement stating that it would not receive the wheat crop, provided that it issues a circular from the Directorate of Transport to avoid “exploiting farmers while marketing their crops” at a meeting of the Executive Council’s Presidency held on June 7.
According to the Agriculture and Irrigation Commission, the amount of wheat received amounted to 200,000 tons. It was expected that the quantity would reach one million tons this year, after 14 days since the start of the receiving operations, and that this took place without obstacles.
The Commission identified 25 centers distributed over the geography of northeastern Syria to receive the wheat crop from farmers at a price of 43 cents per kilogram, taking into account the grading system.
There are several centers in al-Malikiyah district, namely Buruj, Tal Alo, Kar Ziyarat, al-Qahtaniyah, Tal Maarouf, Qamishli, Amuda, Hittin, Kabka, al-Hasakah, and Sabah al-Khair.
In the countryside of Deir Ezzor governorate, there are centers of “Sba’a Kilo” and Hajin, and in the Raqqa region, there are centers of Salhabiya, Kalta, Badr, Kabsh, Shanina, and al-Rafah, and in the Tabqa region the center of the “Albu Assi” silos, in addition to the Manbij center, and in Ayn al-Arab the Roufi silos, Jalabiya and Siren.
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