Mideast Drought and Syrian Wheat Harvest Failure
The wheat harvest is in across Syria and the Middle East and the situation looks grim. View Video by Glen M. MacDonald.
The most recent Syrian estimates place the harvest at 2 million metric tons - less than half the 4.1 million ton harvest of 2007, and the 2007 harvest was almost 1 million tons below a peak harvest. The culprit is a devastating drought that has left soil dry and dusty. The early stages of the drought affected the 2007 harvest and it has now intensified and decimated the 2008 Syrian harvest. The strength of the drought increases eastward towards the Iraqi border. Everywhere here precipitation has been less than 50 % of normal. Even weeds are sparse in dry empty fields.
The drought is also affecting pasture lands putting pressure on the Bedouin and their sheep. In Syria both shepherds and farmers face an uncertain future. Irrigation has helped in some cases, but less that 50% of fields are irrigated and irrigation water often disappears in the dry winds. In addition, groundwater and reservoir supplies are under pressure, some reservoirs are now mere puddles compared to their former capacity.
Even the mighty Euphrates is not immune to the drought, discharge has decreased and pumps run incessantly drawing water from the river. Syria has promised to aid Iraqi farmers with releases of water, but by the time the flow reaches the border the salt content has doubled. Syria with its growing and increasingly urbanized population has only months of emergency wheat stores left and for the first time in 15 years is resorting to purchases on the international market - a market that is becoming increasingly expensive. SImilar declining harvests due to drought in Turkey, Lebanon, Iran are dirving those countries to purchases on the international market, In Syria and throughout the Middle East, an old enemy, drought, is again challenging an ancient and troubled region.
Published: Friday, August 01, 2008