Raising customs duty on imported goods soars prices in Syria’s Idlib

IDLIB, Syria (North Press) – Days ago, the 35-year-old Shaker al-Masri, a pseudonym for a trader of Dana town abstained from entering vegetables from the northern countryside of Aleppo to Idlib, northwest Syria, through al-Ghazawiya crossing after Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly al-Nusra Front) raised the customs duty on imported materials.

Al-Masri, who used to enter different types of vegetables through the crossing, used to make good profits, “but it has become a bad trade.”

On November 30, the HTS raised customs’ duties from $20 to $30 on the entry of various types of foodstuffs, fuels, and other materials through al-Ghazawiya crossing in its areas of control north of Aleppo.

The new tax will cover foodstuffs, oil derivatives, firewood, clothes, cellphones in addition to different types of vegetables and fruits. 

The two crossings, al-Ghazawiya and Deir Ballout crossing that links between areas of northwest Aleppo and Idlib, link between HTS-held areas and those of the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA).

Unreasonable decision  

The HTS decision to raise the customs duty raised rage among residents and traders of the region especially that it was issued in a time when Idlib is witnessing a record prices hike as a result of the devaluation of the Turkish lira against the US dollar.

According to Lira website, Turkish lira dropped, yesterday, to 13.43 against the USD, while one TRY equals 266 Syrian Pounds (SYP).

“The decision to raise the customs’ duty is an unreasonable and unjust decision,” al-Masri added.

Due to the increasing customs’ duty, prices of materials have soared by about 15% increasing sufferings of residents and IDPs, who are witnessing deteriorating livelihood and bad economic conditions in light of the ongoing deteriorating Turkish lira, according to traders.

The price of each kilo of potato has become four TRY after it was three TRY and each ton of firewood reached $190 (about 660,000 SYP), according to traders of Idlib.

Meanwhile, the price of each flour bag (15 kilograms) increased to 120 TRY (8.952 USD) after it was 80 TRY( 5.97 USD).

Almost empty markets

Residents and activists of the city of Idlib say the HTS monopolizes everything and through its decision it is tightening the screw on residents.

The oil derivatives department is one of the notable departments that HTS monopolizes through Watad Petroleum company, which monopolizes the fuels imported to Idlib city.

Additionally, the HTS monopolizes electricity, internet, water, transportation, entry of cement and iron, an others allowing it to make monthly profits of more than $30 million, according to activists.

For three successive years, General Zakat Board of the HTS’ Salvation Government has been imposing Zakat of about 5% on the production of all peasants, who extract olive oil in oil pressers or sell their products in the produce market. 

The prices of clothes has increased by about 25% following the decision to raise the custom duty, Ahmad al-Shawwa, owner of a clothing store, said.  

He pointed out that the clothing markets in the region are already witnessing a prices soar as a result of the devaluation of the Turkish lira, “The decision comes to raise the prices more.”

The clothing markets in the border town with Turkey Atmeh have become almost empty due to the increasing prices, according to Shawwa.

“The cheapest piece of clothes is about 250 TRY (18,65 USD, 70,000 SYP),” he noted.

Reporting by Bara’ al-Shami