Farmers pour wheat from a bag before planting in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus December 26, 2013. Picture taken December 26, 2013. Picture taken December 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Mohammed Abdullah)
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War and drought have crippled Syria's wheat crop, with some experts now forecasting that output of the staple food could fall to around a third of prewar levels, and possibly even below 1 million tons for the first time in 40 years.Agricultural experts, traders and Syrian farmers who talked to Reuters gave crop estimates ranging from 1 million tons to 1.7 million at best, a more pessimistic range than that given by the United Nations earlier this month.Before the war, Syria produced around 3.5 million tons of wheat on average, enough to satisfy local demand and usually permit substantial exports, thanks in part to irrigation from the Euphrates River that waters its vast eastern desert.Before the war, the Syrian government typically bought around 2.5 million tons of wheat each year to distribute to bakeries that fed the public subsidized bread, and to bolster its strategic reserve.Syria typically planted 1.7 million hectares before the war, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.With drought hitting its rain-fed wheat crop in the west, the hope for Syria seems to lie in its irrigated croplands in the east, which before the crisis constituted almost 60-70 percent of its overall wheat production.
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