The Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad has signed new agreements to purchase wheat from Russia.
The Syrian minister of internal trade Amr Salem agreed during a meeting with Russian public sector company representatives to follow up on previous contracts for the supply of wheat to Syria, regime-owned news outlet Tishreen reported on Thursday.
Salem added that discussions are underway to export surplus supplies of citrus, olive oil, and other agricultural goods to reduce the wheat bill.
A source in the Syrian regime's Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection also revealed to the Syrian North Press news agency on Wednesday that the regime signed deals with Russian companies to import 600,000 tons of wheat.
The report states quantities are sufficient to last until the first half of 2023.
Syria requires 3.2 million tons of wheat, but its production of wheat this year reached only 1.7 million tons and fell short of expectations due to “exceptional climatic conditions”, according to the regime’s Minister of Agriculture, Muhammad Hassan Qatana.
Syrian opposition officials have warned of new levels of food insecurity after a decline in domestic wheat production, as the country has been struggling with recurrent wheat shortages over the past few years.
The struggle owes both to the destruction of agricultural infrastructure during the ongoing civil war – which began in 2011 - and international sanctions against the Syrian regime.
The regime relies on Moscow for the bulk of its wheat imports, so the threat of all-out famine in Syria also grew after Russias invasion of Ukraine – which disrupted grain shipments - in February.
A number of investigations have found that some wheat confiscated from Ukrainian farmers by Russian troops occupying the east of Ukraine has been sold to Syria.