Jandaris, Syria – The earthquakes that struck northwestern Syria and southern Turkey caused severe damage, not only to residential buildings but to the economic sector as well.
With many commercial and industrial facilities reduced to rubble, northwest Syria has witnessed visible stagnation in its commercial sector, along with a steep increase in prices for basic goods.
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The situation was exacerbated by a halt to the transport of goods across the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, the main economic outlet for the region, in the first days after the earthquake.
Mahmoud Joulaq, a bakery supervisor in Jandaris, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that the quake-stricken areas of northwestern Syria are now facing a bread crisis after bakeries closed down and the import of flour from across the border in Turkey came to a halt.
Joulaq recounts that when the earthquake hit, all his employees at the bakery quickly left to check on their families.
“We were forced to shut down until the next morning, when only two other employees returned. The rest were trying to pull their families out from under the rubble,” Joulaq said.
“But we had to go back to operating, despite not having enough staff, because most bakeries in the town were burned or destroyed,” Joulaq said, explaining that the bakery’s production capacity instantly shrunk.
In the first few days after the quake, the bakery used flour stored in its warehouses, but that quickly ran out.
The roads leading to Bab al-Hawa and Bab al-Salama, two crossings along the Syria-Turkey border, were cut off due damage caused by the quakes, stopping the transport of flour and raw materials into Jandaris.
The first batch of flour to arrive in the bakery since the quake came seven days later, but by then prices had soared.
“The prices of our raw materials have increased by 20 percent, especially the flour, yeast and fuel,” said Joulaq. “Before the earthquake, we were producing about 3,500 bags of bread every day. But today, our maximum production capacity is 1,500.”
Like Joulaq, Omran Zaarour, a food store owner living in Jindaras after being displaced from Aleppo, said the earthquake has cost them a great deal.
“On a commercial level, we’ve lost a lot. Destruction to our warehouses damaged our stored goods,” said Zaarour.
He said that before the quake, 80 percent of all foodstuffs in northwestern Syria came through the border crossings with Turkey. With the quake causing a depletion of basic goods on the market, there has been a sharp rise in the prices of alternatives.
Northwestern Syria’s lifeline
According to Mazen Alloush, director of media and public relations at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, no commercial goods nor aid entered northwestern Syria through the crossing for a week after the earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria.
“During this week, we developed a shortage in certain goods on the markets, especially vegetables, fruit, and fuel,” Alloush said.
Thinking that the border would remain closed to commercial trucks, some people rushed to hoard commodities and raise their prices. This prompted the border administration to push for the resumption of commercial transport, he said.
“In 2022, approximately 75,000 commercial trucks entered northern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, in addition to a similar number of export trucks that went to Turkey,” Alloush said.
According to Hayan Hababa, an economist in Idlib, natural disasters have a debilitating effect on a country’s economic sector.
“For companies and factories, these disasters destroy fixed and tangible assets such as real estate and machinery, in addition to human capital. This leads to a deterioration in the productive capacity of these facilities,” Hababa said.
“These effects may be fatal for some companies, leading to their closure,” he added.