by Hummam Sheikh Ali
HASAKAH, Syria, June 16 (Xinhua) -- The farmers in Syria's northeastern province of Al-Hasakah, considered a breadbasket of Syria, have been struggling to survive under the U.S. ban on wheat sales to the Syrian government-controlled parts of the province which is already hit by a severe drought.
Al-Hasakah contributed about 36 percent of wheat production in Syria, but the majority of the province was seized by Kurdish militias in 2015 except for some inner cities still under the Syrian government's control.
"Foreign intervention by the U.S. and its allies, and the drought have put the farmers in trouble, and they face obstacles to selling their products," Abdul-Hameed Karaku, the head of the farmers union in Al-Hasakah, told Xinhua.
"The difficulties and economic siege, as well as the embargo imposed by the U.S. forces, have broken the back of the farmers and added a big burden on them and their children," Karaku said.
The Syrian government has repeatedly slammed the U.S. forces, which have been operating in Syria since 2014 in the name of fighting terror groups, as a presence of occupation.
The U.S. troops, allied with the Kurdish militias, have also been accused of stealing Syrian oil, gas and wheat, and even setting massive fires to wheat and barley crops in the northeastern provinces.
The Syrian government has accused the U.S. forces of systematically and deliberately setting fires to the Syrian wheat fields in 2019 and 2020.
Former Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari said in a statement in June 2020 that the U.S. was publicly stealing 200,000 barrels of Syrian oil on a daily basis, in addition to setting thousands of hectares of wheat farmland on fire.
The situation has been worsening in recent years due to a drought that has dealt a heavy blow to the wheat yield in the region, including the Kurdish-controlled areas where the farmers are not allowed to sell their grains to the government-held towns and cities.
"The U.S.-backed militias have prevented the delivery of grains to the government areas," Ali Makhlouf, the province's head of agriculture, told Xinhua.
In addition, the Russia-Ukraine conflict that broke out early this year has impacted the global wheat supply, creating a shortage of wheat supply for Syria, which last year imported 1.5 million tonnes of wheat, reportedly mostly from Russia.
The UN said in February that Syria ranked first among the 10 most food-insecure countries in the world in 2022, with 12 million people suffering from limited or uncertain access to food, as the country's economy is "spiraling further downward."
"We in Al-Hasakah suffer from the drought which has been ongoing for two consecutive years, and before that, we had suffered from wars and fires, as well as the impacts of the U.S. forces and sanctions," said Abdullah Hussain, a local farmer.
Karmo Ali, another farmer, said that the drought forced him to leave his wheat land unplanted due to the lack of rain.
"The land is barren, this is our reality here. Most of the people have been displaced because there are no jobs, nor harvests, and the situation has become absolutely bad," Ali said. ■