LONDON - Syria is trying to tap frozen funds in foreign bank accounts to step up purchases of food stocks including wheat, as civil war and a deepening humanitarian crisis push President Bashar Assad to seek new ways to feed his people.
The country faces its worst wheat harvest in nearly three decades due to the conflict, dealing a blow to Assad's plan for self-sufficiency in food that was aimed at sidestepping Western moves to isolate and weaken his government through sanctions.
Syria's economy has been hurt by depletion of foreign reserves that were estimated at around $16-18 billion before the conflict.
"The sheer scale of the economic and infrastructural devastation in Syria has necessitated a sharp rise in the import of food staples such as grains and sugar," said Torbjorn Soltvedt of risk consultancy Maplecroft.
"With the situation likely to deteriorate over the coming months, the Syrian regime also knows that it needs to boost stocks in order to supply regime-held areas."