Syria is set to ration its reserves of wheat and other essentials and basic goods, in a range of measures to brace against the shortages and major supply issues predicted to result from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The announcement was made on Thursday by Syria’s Council of Ministers, which cited the need to ration basic goods such as wheat, sugar and cooking oil. The Council also said that it would limit the regime’s public spending, as commodity prices around the world are expected to rise significantly.
Following the launching of the Russian invasion of Ukraine this week and the subsequent massive sanctions imposed on Moscow by western nations, there are fears that the export of wheat and other goods such as corn and barley could be impacted around the world.
The export of wheat in particular is an issue of concern, as Ukraine – known as the ‘breadbasket of Europe’ – and Russia provide a total of 30 per cent of the world’s wheat exports.
The predicted shortage of wheat comes amid an already-existing shortage worldwide, which has been seen especially in Syria where Bashar al-Assad’s regime has found it difficult to distribute the commodity throughout the territory it controls. The announced rationing will be added to existing restrictions set by Damascus. Over the past few years, Syria has had to import wheat from Russia due to its own wheat harvest running ever lower due to drought, water shortages, and other economic reasons. As a result, according to the United Nations, Syria’s wheat harvest last year was at its lowest in 50 years, and was less than half of what it was in 2020.
Last year, the Syrian government reportedly had to import 1.5 million tonnes of wheat – mostly from Russia – due to that low harvest and the fact that most of the wheat supply in Syria comes from the country’s north-east, which is largely under the control of the Kurdish militias backed by American forces.
The predicted shortage of wheat as a result of the conflict in Ukraine will likely also impact the amount supplied to other countries in the Middle East, with Egypt in particular importing 70 per cent of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia.