Farmers protest against AANES’ wheat purchase price

A combine harvester operating in an agricultural field in the Mabada sub-district, eastern countryside of al-Hasakah - May 19, 2024 (Enab Baladi)

A combine harvester operating in an agricultural field in the Mabada sub-district, eastern countryside of al-Hasakah - May 19, 2024 (Enab Baladi)

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Villages and towns in the rural areas of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa, controlled by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), witnessed protests against the price set by the administration for purchasing wheat from farmers in its controlled areas.

Enab Baladi‘s correspondent in Deir Ezzor reported that protest points today, Monday, May 27, were spread across several towns and villages in western Deir Ezzor, including Hawayij Bo-Masa’aa, al-Saewa, and al-Hissan Roundabout, where farmers gathered in front of the Agricultural Development Company’s building to express their rejection of the proposed price.

The protests included roadblocks using burnt tires in various villages and towns.

The protests were not limited to Deir Ezzor alone, as the local Naher Media website posted pictures showing dozens of farmers gathering in front of the Autonomous Administration’s building in Raqqa, demanding an adjustment to the wheat price determined by the administration.

The protests extended to al-Hasakah province, where Enab Baladi‘s correspondent in the province reported that protestors had gathered in the cities of al-Darbasiyah and Amuda in northern al-Hasakah, carrying the same demands.

The Agriculture and Irrigation Authority of the Autonomous Administration in northeastern Syria set the purchasing price of wheat from farmers for the 2023-2024 agricultural season on Sunday.

According to the decision issued by the authority on May 26, the purchasing price was set at 31 cents per kilogram of wheat under the standard grading system, compared to 43 cents for the same amount last year.

The price of one kilogram of wheat is 4,603 Syrian pounds according to today’s exchange rate of 1,4850 Syrian pounds per US dollar, as monitored by the S-P Today website specializing in currency exchange movements.

Unfair pricing

Several farmers described the wheat pricing as “unjust,” hoping for a different price from the Autonomous Administration, according to their statements to Enab Baladi.

Abdullah al-Abid, a farmer from the village of Abu Malha in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor, told Enab Baladi that the decision to raise bread prices and lower wheat prices is a complex and perhaps unsolvable equation, leading to farmers incurring “heavy” losses.

He added that low production and high costs have led to unbearable losses considering the recently set price by the Autonomous Administration.

Al-Abid owns 400 dunums, which used to produce around 100 kilograms of wheat per dunum, with the cost per dunum for plowing, seeds, and irrigation reaching up to 100 US dollars.

According to al-Abid’s calculations for his crop production costs, the pricing should be approximately 50 cents per kilogram to cover farmers’ losses.

The situation was not much different for Faisal al-Nawaf, residing in northern Deir Ezzor, who stated that the wheat price was unfair to farmers this year. Al-Nawaf said he plans to store and process the wheat to sell it later as seeds to make up for losses.

According to information obtained by Enab Baladi from a source in the Agricultural Development Company of the Autonomous Administration in Deir Ezzor, farmers who received fuel support during the crop-growing period will be forced to sell their crops to the administration at the price of 31 cents.

The source, who remained anonymous as they were not authorized to speak to the media, added that the Autonomous Administration provided support to farmers to benefit from the agricultural crops, and the farmers who benefited from the support must sell their crops to the administration.

Protests reached al-Hasakah

In the city of Amuda in the countryside of al-Hasakah province, farmers began a sit-in for the second consecutive day, protesting the Autonomous Administration’s decision to set the wheat price.

Protesters raised banners confirming their intention to continue protesting against the decision, demanding an adjustment and raising the wheat price to 50 cents.

Enab Baladi‘s correspondent in al-Hasakah reported that the protests also reached the city of al-Darbasiyah in the countryside of the province, where farmers from the city and its countryside participated, carrying the same demand to adjust the wheat price.

Khaldun Maamo, a farmer from the town of Mabada in eastern al-Hasakah province, expressed dissatisfaction with this year’s wheat price, noting that the pricing is unfair and insufficient to cover agricultural costs, leading to “huge” losses for farmers.

He added that the cost of farming part of his land reached 600 US dollars, and with the current decision, he could sell the crop with a profit of no more than 100 dollars, indicating potential agricultural decline if the current policy set by the Autonomous Administration for pricing is not reviewed. He considered that no one would think of farming wheat again under these conditions.

There are two prices for purchasing agricultural products in al-Hasakah province: one set by the Syrian regime’s government in Damascus and the other by the Autonomous Administration, which controls northeastern Syria.

The local North Press agency published photos showing protesters in the cities of al-Darbasiyah and Amuda in northern al-Hasakah, demanding the wheat purchasing price be adjusted.

Kurdish parties oppose

Several political parties, including some participating in the Autonomous Administration, demanded an amendment to the Agriculture and Irrigation Authority’s decision setting the wheat purchasing price for the 2024 agricultural season.

In a joint statement on Sunday, the parties said the set price is “unfair to farmers and all workers in the agricultural sector as it barely covers production costs,” according to the North Press agency.

The Kurdish Leftist Party in Syria, the Kurdish Democratic Party in Syria, and the Kurdistan Democratic Peace Party demanded the Autonomous Administration review and revise the decision, and set reasonable wheat prices for agricultural production, according to the statement.

The decision to set the wheat purchasing price at 31 cents “harms the entire agricultural sector and the economic and social life in northeastern Syria, which is primarily an agricultural area,” the statement said.

For its part, the Kurdish National Council expressed its condemnation of the wheat purchasing price, which it considered “low,” pointing out that the regime showed willingness to buy wheat at 36 cents, causing severe losses to farmers and threatening food security in the region.

It added that such a step could force many farmers to leave their land and migrate, searching for better opportunities elsewhere, posing a serious threat to the future of agriculture in the region.

The Council called on international organizations concerned with stability in Syria to pressure the Democratic Union Party, which controls the Autonomous Administration, to review this “unfair” pricing and set a fair price that matches production costs and ensures a profit margin for farmers.

 

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