Interim Govt neglects wheat crop despite risks to farmers and food security

Wheat purchase prices do not satisfy farmers in Ras al-Ain - May 5, 2024 (Enab Baladi)

Wheat purchase prices do not satisfy farmers in Ras al-Ain - May 5, 2024 (Enab Baladi)


Enab Baladi – Jana al-Issa

At the beginning of this June, the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) set the price of wheat in its controlled areas at $220 per ton for first-grade soft wheat.

The price set by the government this year is lower than the prices adopted in the last season when the Ministry of Economy, on June 13, 2023, set the price of a ton of hard wheat at $330.

The price set this year is the lowest compared to the prices set by different governing bodies in Syria, where the price set by the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) operating in Idlib, northern Hama countryside, and parts of western Aleppo countryside is $310 per ton.

The price set by the regime’s government is $360 per ton, and the price set by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) is $310 per ton.

Setting a price that does not correspond at all to the costs farmers incurred in this crop, and the absence of guarantees from the Interim Government to achieve even slight profits from this strategic crop, has opened the door to questions about why the government is neglecting this crop and not caring about the farmers, in addition to the impact of this price on the farmers and the region.

Interim Government neglects the crop

This year, the Interim Government adopted a pricing based on a previous decision issued in September 2023, setting the price of first-grade soft wheat at $220 per ton, second-grade at $215 per ton, and third-grade wheat at $210 per ton.

It added varying bonuses to the price per ton, five dollars per ton in Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, and $25 per ton in northern and eastern Aleppo countryside, without a clear mechanism or standard for this variation, which farmers considered a waste of their livelihoods and unfair treatment.

In the 2023 wheat harvest season in Ras al-Ain, the Interim Government set the price of buying a ton of first-grade pure hard wheat at $330, but farmers could not sell pure hard wheat for more than $220 per ton and soft wheat for $150 per ton.

At that time, production estimates in Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain were between 200,000 and 250,000 tons, and in northern and eastern Aleppo countryside 40,000 tons.

At that time, farmers complained about the accumulation of the crop with them, as the Interim Government only received small quantities, leaving them susceptible to monopolization and control by traders, due to the absence of suitable storage places and difficulties in maintaining the crop’s quality, leading to its spoilage.

Higher seed prices

Muhammad Younis (63 years old), a farmer living in the area of Kal Jibrin in the Azaz countryside, told Enab Baladi that the price set by the government is very low compared to the crop’s costs, which the government did not support in the production stage.

Younis explained that the costs of seeds, fertilizers, fuel, and harvesting are very high, as the Interim Government sold a ton of wheat seeds for $350.

The decreased price pushes farmers not to sell wheat to the Interim Government but instead to sell it through traders to other controlling entities where the price is higher.

Lack of financial capability

The Minister of Economy in the Syrian Interim Government, Abdel Hakim al-Masri, told Enab Baladi that the reason for determining the purchase price of wheat from farmers at $220, the same as last year’s purchase price, is due to the lack of government’s financial ability to buy at a price higher than the global price.

The minister considered that raising the price further would cause a loss to the Grain Corporation on one hand and would lead to higher bread prices in the region and reduced support on the other hand, due to additional costs represented by transporting wheat from Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain to Aleppo countryside cities, according to him.

Al-Masri pointed out that the higher set price of the commodity in other controlled areas may be due to the higher financial resources available to the authorities, such as taxes and imports, among others, as well as the higher price of a loaf of bread to ensure it is not sold at cost price, in his opinion.

The Director of the Grain Corporation in the Interim Government, Engineer Hassan al-Muhammad, said that the price set by the government is low in terms of supporting the farmer because it did not receive the required support to buy the wheat crop, considering that it will not abandon the purchase and support of wheat even at minimal levels.

Al-Muhammad added to Enab Baladi that the Syria Recovery Trust Fund used to cover about 10% of the area’s wheat needs, but the fund’s supplies have almost stopped since the beginning of 2024 concerning wheat while its support is limited to securing the needs of bakeries managed by the government in the region.

The wheat production in the northern Aleppo countryside where the Interim Government controls is estimated at 25,000 to 30,000 tons of wheat this year.

Towards alternative crops

Agricultural engineer Fawaz Khanji, told Enab Baladi that the wheat crop is one of the most prominent crops for food security, which does not prompt any authority to take measures that would result in neglecting the crop.

Khanji explained the Interim Government’s actions in this context as possibly resulting from financial pressures due to weak and limited resources and the existence of multiple sectors that require many needs.

Khanji confirmed that the low wheat price amidst a decrease in production volume will incur losses for farmers, potentially pushing them to look for alternative crops that are less costly, more productive, and can be exported, such as medicinal and aromatic plants and some forage crops.

The agricultural engineer pointed out the urgent need for a balanced and prudent policy to provide material and technical support to farmers within the available means in this important and vital production sector.

Decreased production since 2011

According to a report issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the wheat crop in Syria for 2022 amounted to about one million tons, a 75% decrease from levels before 2011, while barley has become “almost non-existent.”

The average production of the crop from 1990 to 2010 was over four million tons, with Syria recording the highest number in production in 2006 at 4.9 million tons according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, and the average local consumption was 2.5 million tons, allowing for an export surplus ranging between 1.2 and 1.5 million tons.

The organization’s representative in Syria, Mike Robson, considered in mid-September 2022 that climate change factors, economic stagnation, and ongoing security issues combined to cause severe damage to Syria’s grain production in 2022, leaving the majority of its farmers facing a “critical situation.”

The official pointed out that climate change is not the only challenge, but in a country like Syria, the challenge is doubled with rising inflation, lack of electricity, and the absence of good production inputs, alongside some ongoing security issues in parts of the country.

General price drop

Political economy researcher Yahya al-Sayed Omar told Enab Baladi that despite wheat being considered a strategic crop, the ruling powers in Syria do not give it enough attention in terms of marketing, as all governments across the entire Syrian geography set low wheat prices this year compared to the previous year.

Al-Sayed Omar considered one of the main reasons for the decline in wheat purchase prices in the Interim Government areas to be that purchase prices have fallen in other control areas, prompting all authorities to reduce prices to save purchase costs, placing farmers before a fait accompli, especially as they face difficulties selling it in other areas, forcing them to deliver the wheat regardless of the price’s fairness.


It is noticed here that the Interim Government and other existing authorities deal with the market as a trader rather than from a state and strategic thinking perspective, trying to save costs regardless of the material’s significance and its role in food security and social stability.

Yahya al-Sayed Omar, Researcher in Political Economy


Food security and recovery at risk

Regarding the impact of low prices in various control areas on farmers, al-Sayed Omar views this as a definite loss, meaning that farmers will abandon wheat cultivation. However, this may not lead to a shift to other crops but could result in giving up farming entirely, with farmers turning to other professions or attempting to migrate, which would increase the severity of social crises and food security risks.

Here, it is possible that the controlling governments in Syria are seeking to save wheat purchase costs by placing international institutions under the fait accompli and asking them to fund flour purchase operations, a policy that researcher Yahya al-Sayed Omar considered wrong and will likely end with negative repercussions on farmers, society in general, and the government as well.

Governmental neglect of wheat may lead to a reduction in wheat cultivated area, thus decreasing production, driving farmers away from farming, increasing unemployment, heightening food security risks, raising migration rates, and altogether undermining early recovery prospects in the region, according to the researcher.


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