Syrian drought threatens food crops

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

FAO: “Prospects for the winter wheat and barley crops, for harvest from May 2014, are unfavourable."
FAO: “Prospects for the winter wheat and barley crops, for harvest from May 2014, are unfavourable."

Related tags: Agriculture, Food security, United nations

Syria may be facing increasing food security threats as drought threatens this year's harvests, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said.

Many of the country's prime growing areas have seen low levels of rainfall this year, the FAO reported. Combined with Syria's civil war, the country's ability to produce food is under significant threat.

Harvest prospects unfavourable

Prospects for the winter wheat and barley crops, for harvest from May 2014, are unfavourable. The persistent civil insecurity and conflict continue to hamper agricultural production, as access to farmlands becomes difficult. Shortages of fuel to operate irrigation pumps and other equipment have compounded the problem​,” said the FAO report.

Furthermore, additional concerns are growing with drought conditions detected in main cropping areas of the country. Remotely-sensed data and information reveal that vast areas in the northwest have received well below average rainfall in the last few months.”

“Large swaths of cropping areas in Aleppo, Hama, Idleb, Homs and Dar’a governorates may have been affected by drought in some areas. Close monitoring of these developments is warranted​.”

Crop failure would exacerbate an already dire food security situation in the country. More than 3 million Syrians do not have access to sufficient food supplies, according to another UN report.

Valerie Amos, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, told the Security Council that no progress has been made in opening up aid supply routes to opposition-held areas following a UN resolution last month.

Struggling aid

Food aid to Syria is also struggling to achieve its required funding levels. At the start of March Greg Barrow, director of the World Food Programme's London office, said the organisation's Syrian operations were only 5% funded, and its operations to support Syrian refugees outside the country were only 7% funded. He added that it needed US$200m to fund these operations to the end of April.

The UN revealed more than 1m people have fled Syria to Lebanon as refugees, making it the country with the highest per-capita concentration of refugees in the world, and putting enormous strain on its resources. 

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