Syrian wheat production at 29-year low

Extreme weather conditions have caused wheat production in war-torn
Syria to drop to a 29-year low, World Food Programme officials said

Spokesman Hervé Verhoosel told reporters during a briefing in Geneva
that wheat production for the year was 1.2 million tons, about
two-thirds of the amount produced in 2017. He said the food shortage was
due to extended drought during the cropping season followed by heavy

"Farmers had reported it as the worst agricultural season in living
memory in al-Hasakeh, the north-eastern region that typically provides
almost half the country's wheat," Verhoosel said.

He cited figures produced in a report by the WFP and Food and Agriculture Organization, both U.N. agencies.

Because of the drop in wheat production Syrians will have less to eat
and will have to pay more for the wheat they are able to obtain.

U.N. officials said food aid must continue to Syria, which is embroiled
in a seven-year civil war, despite increased security and a drop in the
number of food insecure people there. About 44 percent of households
have reduced the number of meals they eat each day and more than 35
percent restricted how much adults eat in favor of feeding children.

"Despite overall improvements in access for food, about one-quarter of
the households continued to rely on poor-quality and -quantity diets,"
Verhoosel said.

About 963,600 internally displaced people returned to their homes in
2018, an increase of 58 percent over 2017. Another 23,400 refugees
returned to Syria from other countries. Despite the returns, the United
Nations said population displacement is the primary driver of food

"There were still 13.1 million people in need of humanitarian
assistance, 6.1 million of whom were food-insecure internally displaced
persons. It was vital to maintain a lifeline of food assistance for
vulnerable families in Syria, where unemployment was stood at 60
percent," Verhoosel said.

He said the WFP was shifting priorities from food distribution to longer-term strategies for returnees.

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