Rome: The civil war in Syria is harming the country's agriculture sector and one-fifth of the population - around four million people - cannot produce or buy enough food, the UN has said. And impending risks to Syrian crops threaten to worsen food shortages, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned in a joint report.

Syrian farmers are short of seeds and fertilizers they need to plant their next crop and Syria will need to import 1.5 million metric tons of wheat for the 2013-14 season. Domestic wheat production over the next 12 months is likely to be severely compromised and has fallen by 40 percent since the 27-month conflict began between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

FAO has appealed for USD41.7 million to assist 768,000 people. The funding must be secured by August to provide farmers with fertilizers and seeds to plant in October. Otherwise, the report said, many farmers will be unable to harvest wheat until mid-2015.The average monthly price of wheat flour has doubled between May 2011 and May 2013 in several areas, and there is serious bread shortage across the country.

WFP said last month that Syrian families were increasingly resorting to begging for food to cope with shortage and high prices. Food shortage has escalated due to massive displacement of the Syrian population, disruption of agricultural production, unemployment, economic sanctions and high food and fuel prices, according to the report.

“The livestock sector too has been seriously depleted by the on-going conflict," the report said. Poultry production is estimated to be down by more than 50 percent compared to 2011, while sheep and cattle numbers have also significantly declined. Farmers need vaccines to prevent a serious risk that livestock diseases could be transmitted to neighbouring countries, the FAO and WFP warned.


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