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142 CHAPTER 6


of GDP. The table also shows the distribution of benefits between farmers and consumers. Sugarcane farmers and sugar consumers benefited in roughly equal amounts from the subsidies on sugar. In the case of wheat, some 85 percent of the total price subsidies went to farmers.


These figures are calculated at the aggregate level, without reference to the size distribution of the holdings and the land tenure status of farm- ers. Little is known about the distribution of these gains among small-scale farmers and large-scale farmers. In absolute terms, it is safe to say that large-scale wheat farmers capture a disproportionate share of the subsidies because the subsidy benefits are proportional to wheat production. How- ever, the percentage contribution of these subsidies to farm incomes among different farm groups depends on the importance of the subsidized crops within their incomes.


Recent Agricultural Policy Reforms


It is important to point out that the 1970s saw an increase in the use of pub- lic monopolies in the marketing of many agricultural products in Syria. This involved the purchase and distribution of these products on local and foreign markets. These marketing monopolies were directed at various cereals, the main fruits, and crops and harvests for industrial processing. Disciplinary and penal sanctions were applied against individuals who did not respect the monopoly regulations, whether producers or traders. However, the beginning of the 1980s witnessed the introduction of a reform in the marketing policy for agricultural products. This reform involved the following: • the elimination of the system of compulsory importation of certain prod- ucts (wheat, barley, lentils, chickpeas, maize, and others) by public enterprises and the elimination of the restriction on cereal purchases by the state trading enterprise from farmers who choose to sell;


• the preservation of the state monopoly on the exportation of strategic products while granting concessions to the private sector to involve it in the exportation of cereals on condition of a prior agreement with the Grain Board;


• the encouragement of the private sector to participate in export opera- tions in fruits and vegetables through greater freedom in the use of foreign currency receipts, exemptions from the tax on agricultural production, and a reduction in the income tax;


• authorization for public enterprises to process agricultural products and to obtain goods directly on the market at market prices without the obli- gation to pay official prices, which are often higher than market prices; and


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