Food security has improved in parts of Syria over the last year, though the overall situation remains far worse than before the war.
Total wheat production now stands at 1.8m tons, or 12% more than last year’s record low, but it is still less than half of the pre-conflict 10-year average, according to two United Nations agencies that have been assessing the levels of production and food security in the country.
In their latest report, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme have estimated that 6.9m Syrians are still food insecure, and an additional 5.6m would follow them without the regular monthly food assistance.
"For some Syrian families, there is a small shaft of light in the darkness," said Adam Yao, acting FAO representative in Syria. "Despite the immense challenges, agriculture continues to provide food for the country.”
As the scale of conflict in Syria decreases following tentative ceasefires and victories by allied forces in Islamic State-controlled areas, more farmers are expected to gain access to their lands, Yao added.
Jakob Kern, the WFP’s country director in Syria said more must be done to provide food for families affected by the conflicts, despite a “promising” improvement in the availability for produce.
Humanitarian organizations have better access to some besieged areas than they did last year, yet this continues to be heavily constrained in Deir-ez-Zor, where life-saving air-drops continue.
In Ar-Raqqa the situation has become critical due to continued fighting. With many shops now destroyed, the cost of a standard food basket jumped by 42% between May and June.
High cost or unavailability of seeds and fertilizer, and the destruction of infrastructure for irrigation and storage, continue to be among the main agricultural constraints.
More positively, wheat and barley production has improved slightly compared to last year due to better rainfall in the Euphrates watershed and improved access to some agricultural lands.
Pasture conditions have improved and will partially ease pressure from high fodder prices, and herd sizes have stabilized albeit at a very low level. However, the area suffers from insufficient veterinary coverage and limited access to grazing areas in war-torn parts of the country.
Gradual improvements in security and the opening of some key supply routes have allowed trade to slowly recover and urban markets to function in several parts of the country.
In parts of eastern Aleppo where the entire infrastructure and markets have been heavily destroyed, recovery has started at a very slow pace.
Across the country, food prices continue to be close to record highs, with the exception of the governorates of Deir-ez-Zor, Al-Hasakeh and Rural Damascus.