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Commodity Intelligence Report
July 23, 2015

SYRIA: 2015/2016 Wheat Production Up from Last Year due to Favorable Precipitation

USDA estimates Syria’s market year (MY) 2015/2016 wheat production (crop year 2014-2015) at 3.5 million metric tons (mmt), up 1.0 mmt or 40 percent above last year’s drought-reduced crop and recovering to about the 5-year average (figure 1). Yield has also returned to roughly the 5-year average at 2.41 metric tons per hectare (mt/ha), an increase over last year’s 1.92 mt/ha. Area harvested is expected to total 1.45 million hectares, 0.15 million hectares or 10 percent above last year.

The bulk of the Syria’s wheat is grown in the Northern provinces, with the northeastern province of Al Hasakah continuing to earn its distinction as the bread basket of Syria. During last year’s growing season approximately 37 percent of Syria’s crop was produced in this province (figures 2 and 4a) while most of Syria’s wheat suffered from a wide-ranging drought that extended from the northern province of Aleppo through the southwestern province of Damascus (figure3).

Weather for 2015 has much improved over last year with mild winter temperatures and timely seasonal precipitation at or above 300mm along the western and most of the northern wheat growing areas (figure 4b). Figure 5 shows cumulative precipitation for the northern wheat growing provinces for the past three crop years, through April 2015. Ar Raqqah and Aleppo have received normal amounts of precipitation at very timely intervals and have similar crop conditions this year (figures 4b and 5b). Precipitation for Al Hasakah was still considerably below normal, although somewhat above the previous year, but the province has an advantage that nearly two thirds of their production is irrigated, and like Ar Raqqah is not nearly as dependent on precipitation as Aleppo.

The normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and evapotranspiration (Eta) anomalies (figures 4c and 4d), are both derived with data from the moderate resolution imaging satellite (MODIS), and show positive responses across most of the winter wheat growing areas. An exception would be Dayr az Zwar, which indicates a decline in production probably due to a smaller area planted stemming from conflict centered along the narrow corridor that follows the Euphrates River (figure 4d).

The curves in figure 6 show the NDVI masked to production areas in Al Hasakah for the current crop year (2014-2015), last year, (2013-14), and for the extreme drought observed in 2007-2008. Even with irrigation resources, the Al Hasakah wheat crop was significantly diminished by the 2007-2008 drought, while the curve for the 2013-2014 drought shows much less of an impact. The curve for this year remains generally above the 9-year NDVI mean through the May harvest. The Alleppo and Ar Raqqah curves (figure 7) indicate a robust 2014-2015 crop as well, also above their 8-year mean, but their 2013-2014 and 2007-2008 curves line up to illustrate the impact from drought last year, similar to the extreme drought observed in 2007-2008.

The benefit from the improved precipitation in 2014-2015 is shown by Landsat-8 imagery near the city of Aleppo, which indicated more planted wheat area in early April 2015 compared to early April 2014 (figure 8). A robust 2014-2015 crop above the mean was also indicated from the NDVI readings for the combined area of Idlib, Hamah, and Homs in the center-west (figure 9),and for Dimashq, Dar’a, and As Suwayda’ in the southeast (figure 10).

In conclusion, the MY 2015/2016 Syrian wheat crop has experienced favorable seasonal weather conditions and is estimated to attain average to above average levels. This is a significant improvement from the drought-stressed crop observed last year. Visual examination of satellite imagery supports more planted area with vegetation index anomalies that indicate a national wheat crop that is above normal.

This report has been published by the Office of Global Analysis (OGA), International Production Assessment Division (IPAD). Current USDA area and production estimates for grains and other agricultural commodities are available on IPAD's Agricultural Production page or at PSD Online.

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For more information contact William Baker | | (202) 260-8109
USDA-FAS, Office of Global Analysis

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