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Syria: Animal Products
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Agriculture > Animal Products


During the 1960s, the output of animal products stagnated along with crop production. The majority of Syria's livestock population consisted of sheep and goats of mainly indigenous breeds -- multipurpose animals raised for meat, milk, and wool or hair. Although the private sector continued to dominate livestock farming, the government marshaled considerable resources, raising output in the mid-1970s. Between 1976 and 1984, the number of sheep almost doubled from 6.5 to 12.7 million. Goats numbered 950,000 in 1976 and increased to 1.1 million in 1985. Sheep raising accounted for about 65 percent of all meat produced and about one-third of the milk and milk products. In 1984 sheep produced 353,000 tons of milk, cows 330,000 tons, and goats 73,000 tons. About 35,000 beduin families, largely located in arid and semiarid regions, took about three-fifths of the sheep on annual migrations into the desert and steppe for grazing after the winter rainy season. When the sparse natural vegetation dried up, the flocks returned to cultivated areas, where they fed on crop stubble and grass and weeds growing on fallow land. Many of the animals became diseased, and the migrations were difficult, particularly when rainfall was light. The beduin primarily depended on sheep raising for their income, and they were part of the poorest segment of the population, with incomes generally less than half the national average.

About two-fifths of the sheep were raised by farm families to supplement cash income and food production. Because most of sheep-raising occurred in western Syria where rainfall was heaviest, these sheep obtained a large share of their feed from crop residue and even some regular fodder and concentrated feed mixes. Sheep fattening in feedyards has been long-established in western Syria. In the early 1970s, a serious shortage of milk, meat, and eggs had developed for a population that already averaged a low level of meat consumption and had a deficiency of protein in the diet. In response, the government intensified efforts to increase production of animal products and particularly to improve conditions for beduin sheep raisers. A number of small dams were constructed and wells sunk to provide water for nomadic flocks, the area planted in fodder was enlarged, veterinarian field clinics providing free animal vaccinations were established (although they were chronically short of staff and medicines), and shelters were built and stocked with feed in migratory areas. The establishment of cooperatives in the mid-1970s improved range management, extension services, the availability of reasonable credit, and supply and marketing activities for families engaged in sheepraising, whose incomes had been smaller than those of the beduin. In the mid-1970s, there were 14 sheep-breeding and 37 sheepfattening cooperatives. By the mid-1980s, the number of sheepbreeding cooperatives had grown to 318 and sheep-fattening cooperatives totaled 66. In 1974 the government established a state-run organization responsible for the supply, storage, distribution, and marketing of animal feed. Although the number of sheep increased substantially from 1976 to 1984, it was not clear whether the increase was a direct response to the government's program or a result of periods of good rainfall that occurred before the 1984 drought. In spite of increased sheep raising, in the mid-1980s, Syria remained a net importer of meat. Syria imported 4,550 tons of meat in 1984 valued at LS23 million, compared to 12,176 tons of meat in 1983 valued at LS90 million.

Shortages of milk, meat, and eggs encouraged large investments in poultry and dairy production. Poultry production expanded rapidly in the 1970s because of the establishment of several large-scale, commercial-style chicken farms. In the mid1980s, Syria became self-sufficient in poultry meat, and eggs. In 1984 annual poultry production reached 1.52 million chickens, 80,000 tons of poultry meat, and 1.6 billion eggs, an increase of approximately half a billion eggs above 1979 levels. Syria's private sector was responsible for 91 percent of this output.

In 1984, cattle totaled 736,000, including 501,000 dairy cows that produced 579,000 tons of milk. Cattle were located primarily in western Syria and in areas with substantial irrigation. In the mid-1970s, several large farms were constructed to accommodate imported high-yield dairy cows. Cattle were imported from Turkey and eastern Europe for fattening to provide meat to domestic markets in the mid-1980s. The government also established two artificial insemination centers, encouraged the formation of dairy cooperatives, and expanded extension services. Despite these measures, in the mid-1980s Syria remained a net importer of milk and milk products, importing LS255 million of milk and milk products in 1984.

Data as of April 1987

Last Updated: April 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Syria was first published in 1991. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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