- Title: Syrian goverment subsidises bread amid new wheat crop low
- Date: 2nd October 2016
- Summary: DAMASCUS, SYRIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF MAZZEH RESERVE BAKERY IN DAMASCUS VARIOUS OF BAKERY WORKER MAKING DOUGH IN MACHINE MOUSSA AL-SAADI, HEAD OF MAZZEH RESERVE BAKERY, SITTING DOWN AT HIS DESK IN OFFICE (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HEAD OF MAZZEH RESERVE BAKERY, MOUSSA AL-SAADI, SAYING: "We sell 1,300 grams of bread for 50 Liras while the actual cost of this amount of bread is around 200 Liras, which means that the government offers huge support for this sector estimated to be in the billions. I mean, if we want to sell the bread by the real prices and according to the flour price of 107 Liras, a kilogram of bread would cost 140 Liras." WORKER WORKING WITH DOUGH AT BAKERY VARIOUS OF BREAD ON CONVEYER BELT AND GOING INTO OVEN (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LAWYER AND MAZZEH RESERVE BAKERY CUSTOMER, ALI SHIHAB AL-DIN, SAYING: "It is more useful than other bread. I prefer it and the price is very good compared to other types of bread in the country in the private bakeries." VARIOUS OF PUFFED UP BREAD ON OVEN CONVEYER BELT BAKERY WORKER HANDLING BREAD COMING FRESH FROM THE OVEN BREAD (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HOUSEWIFE AND MAZZEH RESERVE BAKERY CUSTOMER, UM HAIDAR, SAYING: "It (the bread) is good and we are used to it. Its price is good and suitable for customers during this hard time." VARIOUS OF CUSTOMERS QUEUING OUTSIDE BAKERY TO BUY BREAD ONE CUSTOMER RECEIVING PILE OF BREAD MORE BREAD COMING OUT OF THE OVEN / CUSTOMERS WAITING
- Embargoed: 17th October 2016 11:04
- Keywords: Syriam war wheat bread economy
- Location: DAMASCUS, SYRIA
- City: DAMASCUS, SYRIA
- Country: Syria
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace
- Reuters ID: LVA00152B9SNP
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The government of President Bashar al-Assad was forced to tender this summer for an unprecedented 1.35 million tonnes of imported wheat from political ally Russia to ensure supply of the flat loaves that are a staple for the Syrian people.
Before the five-year-old civil war, Syria was a wheat exporter producing four million tonnes in a good year and able to export 1.5 million tonnes.
Now wheat and bread have become an integral part of the war, with wheat farms, seed distribution, milling and bakeries all affected.
The Damascus government subsidizes bread for the areas it controls and aid agencies offer supported prices in some areas, but Syrians in other parts of the country suffer bread shortages and high prices.
In the Syrian capital, Mezzeh Reserve Bakery sells its bread at a much lower price than its competitors, thanks to government subsidies.
"We sell 1,300 grams of bread for 50 Liras while the actual cost of this amount of bread is around 200 Liras, which means that the government offers huge support for this sector estimated to be in the billions. I mean, if we want to sell the bread by the real prices and according to the flour price of 107 Liras, a kilogram of bread would cost 140 Liras," said Moussa al-Saadi, head of the bakery.
Everyday customers flock to the bakery for cheap bread, trying to stretch their money further in the turbulent time.
"It is more useful than other bread. I prefer it and the price is very good compared to other types of bread in the country in the private bakeries," said Ali Shihab, a lawyer who buys his bread from Mezzeh Reserve Bakery.
"It (the bread) is good and we are used to it. Its price is good and suitable for customers during this hard time," echoed Um Haidar, a housewife.
Perilous transport routes have meant the Syrian state has struggled to buy from traditional "bread-basket" areas which lie outside government control.
As of August, 9.4 million Syrians were "food insecure", said Adam Vinaman Yao, deputy Syria representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This is over half of about 17 million people thought to still live in Syria.
Two dry spells, one in December and the other between mid-February and mid-March helped to cut the 2016 crop down from the 2.44 million tonnes in 2015, when most areas had ample rainfall.
In areas were there was rain, like the northeast province of Hasaka which accounts for almost half the country's wheat production, only 472,000 hectares were planted out of a planned 706,000 hectares due to the security situation, Yao said.
There has been heavy fighting in Hasaka as an alliance of Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters backed by U.S.-led air strikes pushed Islamic State militants out of some territory this year.
Of the country's total wheat production this year, only around 400,000 tonnes were procured by the government, a source at the General Organisation for Cereal Processing and Trade (Hoboob), the state body responsible for wheat, said.
The figure is far short of the one to 1.5 million tonnes needed to provide bread to government-held areas of Syria.
The Syrian war has killed more than 250,000 people, created the world's worst refugee crisis, allowed for the rise of the Islamic State group and drawn in regional and major powers.
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