Impact of COVID-19 on food security and agriculture
• The Syrian Arab Republic is facing one of the most complex crises in the world. Almost ten years into the protracted crisis, hostilities continue with loss of lives, widespread displacement, limited economic opportunities, and destruction of livelihoods including agricultural infrastructure and services.
• The spread of COVID-19 is further exacerbating the impacts of the crisis. The average number of new cases has been increasing daily since 23 May. Some of the measures the Government has been using to control the spread of the virus include movement restrictions between cities, a curfew, banning public gatherings and shutdown of economic activities. • COVID-19 containment measures in the Syrian Arab Republic have had the most significant direct impact on transport, retail, services and the daily waged labourers in and around the bigger cities. However, since remote and/or rural areas are also being impacted, the agriculture sector is heavily affected.
• In the past six months the number of food food-insecure people has risen dramatically. The most food-insecure areas include Lattakia, Ar-Raqqa and Aleppo. In May 2020, there were an estimated 6 million people with insufficient food consumption, while 6.4 million people were using negative coping mechanisms. Some of the most adopted coping mechanisms included reliance on less nutritious food, borrowing food, and restricting adult consumption to feed children. Vulnerable populations, including displaced people and female-headed households are are greater risk of food insecurity.
Some of the main impacts of COVID-19 on the agriculture sector and food supply chains include:
• Disruption to the 2019/20 cropping season has been relatively limited, helped by good rainfall, and an easing of more general security concerns – and the timing of the introduction of COVID-19 control measures, which was mid-season during the growing phase of the cereals. • The prices of agricultural inputs (including seeds and fertilizers) and raw materials have increased, ultimately resulting in high retail prices of products. • The livestock sector has been particularly affected by the COVID-19 control measures. The price of cattle and poultry feed, and day-old chicks has doubled, while sheep farmers are facing constraints in accessing grazing land. • Fisheries on the internal rivers (mainly in Al-Ghab and Deir-ez-Zor) were already severely damaged due to the conflict, and are essentially out of operation now due to the added restrictions. • A shortage of agricultural labour, especially skilled labour was reported due to travel restrictions, increased cost of transport, curfew and risk of getting infected with the virus.
• Transportation costs have generally increased by about 30 percent, and by even more in remote areas, affecting the delivery of produce to markets. • Both markets and input dealers closed at times due to COVID-19 control measures, which has also reduced the sale of animals, which would normally take place at this time of year.
• On 31 May 2020, the recent sharp depreciation of the country’s currency led to the Government raising the 2020 purchasing price of wheat from SYP 225 to SYP 400 (around USD 0.44 to USD 0.77) per kg to support farmer’s incomes and increase the stock of domestically procured wheat. • On the other hand, broiler producers flooded the market with meat in order to reduce their stocks of chicken and the cost of their feeding, causing the broiler prices to fall by more than 30 percent. This is a partially attributed to the closure of restaurants (the main marketing outlet for poultry).