Syria turns from wheat producer to wheat importer: minister


Syria has turned from a wheat producer to an importer of the staple material, as mills and silos in the country had been largely destroyed in the war, said a Syrian minister in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"In 2010, Syria had around 3.5 million tons of wheat. The domestic production exceeded the needs. Our stock back then was sufficient for three years. Now, we have become a wheat importer," said Abdullah al-Gharbi, Syria's minister of internal trade and consumer protection.

The minister said the government aimed to shore up the current stock of wheat with the help of allies, mainly Russia.

He added that the stock had declined to a very dangerous level in July 2016, when the amount was only enough for a few days.

"Now, our supplies are sufficient for 210 days and we hope to make our stock of wheat last for 360 days in 2018," he said.

Wheat is an important staple material in Syria. Despite the lack of production due to the grinding war and Western sanctions, the government kept providing bakeries with wheat with the help of Russia and Iran.

The minister, meanwhile, said their biggest obstacle was securing equipment to repair the mills and silos destroyed by the rebels in the rural areas in Syria.

"Now we need to restore our mills and silos but we are facing major difficulties in securing the proper equipment or necessary technology as a result of the sanctions on Syria," he said.

The Western sanctions had affected the livelihood of the Syrians, he added.

"The European and U.S. sanctions imposed on us are illogical as they affect the production of our food," he said.

The minister also welcomed foreign investments in Syria, including those from China.

"We have signed contracts with the Iranians, the Russians and there are reciprocal visits between us and Chinese companies to discuss construction of mills and silos," he continued.

The minister said most of the silos in rebel-held rural areas in Syria had been completely destroyed.

In Hama province, the rebels destroyed the Mardes mill which used to produce 300 tons of wheat per day, the minister said.

He added that a large mill is under construction with the help of Russia in Hama, which will produce 600 tons of wheat per day, noting that it will be ready by the end of 2017.


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