Wheat-to-Bread Value Chain Assessment

Client: CHF

Comprehensive evidence base for strengthening self-sustainable production of bread in Syria. Year 2018

Characteristics of this Assessment are :

  • The assessment took place between in 2018 and included 34 KIIs; 11 FGDs; and individual surveys of farmers (61) and women IDPs (32).
  • Farm size in the farmer survey averaged 41.7 ha with a median of 25.5 ha and a range from 2.0 to 350 ha. Data are averaged over 61 individual farms covering a total of 2,546 ha.
  • Almost all the crops are cultivated using irrigation (98.4%) in the study area and 65.6% of farmers get at least 3.0 t/ha yields of wheat; 91.8% get more than 2.5 t/ha.
  • The main wheat production costs per hectare are due to fertilizer (33% of total cost), fuel (31%) and combine harvesting (20%).
  • Barley (41%), wheat (24%), cotton (14%), faba bean (9%) and corn (8%), in total covered 96% of all the surveyed farmers’ cropland. Minor crops included lentil, chickpeas, and coriander, all three of which are cash crops.

Overall Humanitarian Needs

Wheat production and bread consumption are central to Syrian households. Concentrated in Northern Syria, wheat is the country’s primary agricultural crop, and pre-conflict used to account for about 60% of cultivated land, but now wheat production has decreased by approximately 55% of previous acreage, and is at its lowest level in 30 years, with only 45% of farmers being able to harvest a full wheat crop.

Even before the conflict, Syria was one of the most water poor countries in the world. The United Nations Development Program reported that in 2009, just 300 m3 per year of freshwater were available per person. This falls well below the UN absolute water scarcity benchmark of an annual supply limit of 500 m3 per person per year.

Syria’s total wheat production in 2016-17 was estimated at 1.8 million tons, which did show a slight increase of 12% compared to 2016, which was attributed to better rainfall, and limited local security improvements. However, the level of production remains substantially lower than the pre-crisis 2002-2011 average of 4.1 million tons.

Due to the serious impacts of the conflict, millions of people have suffered damage to or had to abandon homes, farms, and productive assets. Now, roughly 80% of Syrian households are struggling to meet minimal food needs, particularly in areas liberated from ISIS control, where damage to infrastructure, and to commercial and residential property is severe, income-earning opportunities are limited, and prices for basic commodities are high and volatile.

Ar-Raqqa Governorate is one of the more difficult areas of the country to assist because of the recent presence of ISIS forces, and a wide array of destructive impacts caused by their occupation and removal. Only in October 2017, after the city and countryside was freed, did the widespread extent of damage become clear, including directly to agricultural lands, to irrigation and food production infrastructure, and to markets. The multiple social impacts of the conflict are severe, and include the loss or degradation of many important institutions and the social capital required for productive and resilient local livelihoods.

The conflict has also destroyed or damaged many kinds of water infrastructure such as key irrigation and reservoir systems, and water supply and sewerage networks. Now, in northern Ar-Raqqa, water shortages, power cuts, shortages of the fuel to operate pumps, and damage to pumping stations continue to lead to significant humanitarian concerns, as across swathes of farmland many residents have no access to drinking water, forcing them to rely on wells, or untreated water drawn directly from rivers. In the major areas of wheat production in the Governorate, food production has faltered, and the 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview asserts that 77% of this region’s population suffer from food consumption gaps.