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Sanctions Block Syria’s Vital Grain Trade

Sanctions Block Syria's Vital Grain Trade

Posted by contributor Andres Santamaria.

The sanctions imposed by the West on Syria are proving to have an overwhelming affect on the people within this unsteady country, writes Jonathan Saul for Reuters.

Sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States mainly target the assets and finances of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime but are also having a particularly potent effect in the area of food security, as Syria imports about half of its food.

Although the Syrian government subsidizes foodstuffs such as bread, overall prices of resources keep rising.  As food demand is expected to increase this year, the government will have to find ways to supply their citizens. Since Syria’s security situation has become increasingly unstable, importers are withdrawing their business, leaving Syrians more vulnerable to food insecurity, especially those living in areas where the unrest manifests.  As told by one source, “Syria has deep problems at the moment finding companies willing to offer grain such as barley. You can’t open a letter of credit and the risks associated with any deal seem to be rising all the time.”

Food and fuel prices have risen by about 50%, and because Syria has not released any official economic figures for 2011, it is unclear just how devastating the situation is amongst the people. Louay Hussein, a member of the opposition, estimates that unemployment is up to as far as 80%.

Iran, a major regional ally of Syria also under international sanctions, has been able to import grains and may be able to assist Syria to do the same. Others believe that Syria may have to smuggle imported goods from neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan. Whatever the method, President Assad will have to come up with a plan to not only help restore Syria’s food security, while dealing with the sanctions which are drastically making the situation worse.

Photo credit: Reuters/Khaled al-Hariri