Syria sees wheat production at 2.17 million tonnes for 2017 -SANA

CAIRO, April 6 (Reuters) - Syria is expected to produce 2.17 million tonnes of local wheat in the 2017 season, Minister of Agriculture Ahmad al-Qadiri was quoted as saying by state news agency SANA.

The figure suggests an increase of nearly one million tonnes on 2016.

Syria’s wheat harvest fell by almost half to 1.3 million tonnes last year, its lowest in 27 years, as fighting and poor rainfall further degraded the farming sector and the nation’s ability to feed itself.

Before the outbreak of its six-year-old civil war, Syria was a wheat exporter producing four million tonnes in a good year and able to export 1.5 million tonnes.

Qadiri said 1.169 million hectares were planted with wheat this season.

The Damascus government subsidises bread for the areas it controls and aid agencies offer supported prices in some areas, but Syrians in other parts of the country suffer bread shortages and high prices.

Of the 1.3 million tonnes produced in 2016, state grain buyer Hoboob only managed to procure slightly over 400,000 tonnes.

That figure is far short of the one to 1.5 million tonnes needed to provide bread to government-held areas.

Hoboob has been trying to strike import deals for Russian wheat but none has yet arrived. (Reporting by Maha El Dahan; editing by Jason Neely)