By Maha El Dahan and Lisa Barrington
ABU DHABI/BEIRUT, June 13 – Syria has received 225,000 tonnes of Russian wheat, part of a 1.2 million tonne wheat deal struck in February through its state grain buyer.
“So far 225,000 tonnes have arrived in total, this is through deals with six local trading firms and all of the wheat is Russian,” a government source told Reuters on Tuesday.
Syria’s General Establishment for Cereal Processing and Trade (Hoboob) signed contracts with local traders for 1.2 million tonnes of Russian wheat in February in what was the country’s second attempt at a huge grain deal since October.
Hoboob imports wheat for the country’s bread programme. Flat bread is a subsidised staple for Syrians, who have suffered under a conflict estimated to have killed several hundred thousand people and forced millions to flee their homes.
Hoboob had struck a deal in October to buy one million tonnes of wheat from its ally Russia to feed government held areas and prevent bread shortages after a sharp drop in the country’s wheat production last season.
The October deal, struck with a little known firm called Zernomir, has so far not been fulfilled.
“That deal is still on hold, there were several hurdles. We don’t know whether it will be executed or not,” the source said.
Syria has also just started its local wheat buying season.
It has so far procured only around 32,000 tonnes of wheat but the buying season will go on until August.
The Syrian government has said it expects the country to produce 2.17 million tonnes of local wheat in the 2017 season.
That figure would suggest an increase of nearly one million tonnes on 2016.
Syria’s wheat harvest fell by almost half to 1.3 million tonnes last year, its lowest in 27 years, as fighting and poor rainfall further degraded the farming sector and the nation’s ability to feed itself.