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Monday, November 21, 2016

FAO, WFP lament Syria food production at all-time low

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) have raised alarm over the all-time low of food production in the war-torn Syria, reports NaijaAgroNet.

The duo in a joint press statement made available to NaijaAgroNet at the weekend, both FAO and WFP, said the food production in Syria has hit a record low as widespread insecurity and unfavourable weather conditions in parts of the country continued to hamper access to land, farming supplies and markets.

These, NaijaAgroNet gathered, have made it ever more difficult for farmers to maintain their livelihoods and feed the war-torn country.

According to the latest Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) showed that after five years of conflict, many farmers have lost the ability to cope.

NaijaAgroNet also reports that rising prices and scarcity of essential inputs such as fertilizers and seeds mean they will have no other option than to abandon food production if they do not receive immediate support.

In addition, this, they said, will likely have grave consequences not only for the food security of farming households but also on food availability in the country, and may ultimately lead to further displacements.

Further, NaijaAgroNet reports that cereals top the list at an all-time low production in Syria, even as the area planted with cereals in the 2015-16 cropping season is the smallest ever, according to the report, based on field visits and surveys across the country.

Part of the reports read “Farmers planted an estimated 900,000 hectares of wheat in the last year, compared to 1.5 million hectares planted before the crisis. Production, meanwhile, shows an even more drastic decline, from an average 3.4 million tonnes of wheat harvested before the war to 1.5 million tonnes this year - a decrease of 55 percent.”

The FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, because the ongoing crisis and associated sanctions have disrupted trade and markets, access to quality seeds, fertilizers, machinery and fuel needed to operate pumps and tractors is limited.

“Those inputs that are available on local markets are frequently overpriced and of dubious quality,” he observed.

Stressing that poor rainfall and the destruction of valuable irrigation infrastructure has made matters worse for growers trying to continue to produce food under adverse circumstances. In some instances, this has led farmers to switch from cultivating valuable and nutritious crops to hardier but less nutritious ones.

He pointed out that at the same time, the assessment showed vast differences among the governorates in terms of access to land and agricultural inputs − a sign of possible opportunities to intensify support to producers in areas that are relatively accessible.

"Today, we see almost 80 per cent of households across Syria struggling with a lack of food or money to buy food - and the situation is only going to become worse if we fail to support farmers so they can maintain their lands and livelihoods. Agriculture was the main source of livelihood for rural households before the crisis and it is still producing to a certain extent, but it is stretched to the maximum and farmers have largely exhausted their capacity to cope," he declared.

For Muhannad Hadi, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and East Europe, the food security situation of millions of people inside Syria continues to deteriorate with more than seven million people classified as food insecure across the country having exhausted their life savings and no longer able to put food on the table for their families.

"WFP and FAO are working together to invest in more livelihood projects in agriculture as the most effective way to address food insecurity in the long term," he said.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE
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