Looming humanitarian crisis | Increase in price of nut shells used for heating further burdens Idlib residents • The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights
The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Looming humanitarian crisis | Increase in price of nut shells used for heating further burdens Idlib residents

People in north-west Syria region, especially refugee camps’ inhabitants, are struggling with catastrophic living conditions in light of the prohibitively high prices of basic products and poor capabilities. Meanwhile, the current spell of harsh weather accompanied by freezing temperatures has worsened the residents’ living conditions further with the prices of all alternative substances used for heating, such as shells of almond, hazelnut and pistachio, noticeably increasing.


For years, many residents in Idlib city and countryside have relied on using shells of various kinds of nuts to stay warm, especially since they produce substantial amount of energy in houses and tents. In addition, shell-burner stoves are relatively safer than the wood-burner and coal-burner ones. However, nut shells’ high prices have made many families shoulder extra burdens.


Speaking to SOHR, a merchant known by his initials as H. M. trading in nut shells has clarified that the hike of nut shells’ high prices is attributed to several factors, including the following:


  • The high cost of transportation in light of fuel high prices.


  • The small amounts of nut shells imported from Turkey, after the Turkish government imposed additional conditions and taxes.


  • Ongoing freefall of the Turkish Lira, as nut shells are mainly brought from Turkey.


The man says, “merchants have to buy large amounts of nut shells in Turkey, so that they can export them even easily to Syria. However, the merchants face challenges to sell these large amounts in light of the residents’ unwillingness to buy nut shells following the successive increases in prices. There are several types of nut shells, where the high-quality pistachio shells are sold for 240 USD per ton, medium-quality pistachio shells are sold for 220 USD per ton, while hazelnut shells are sold for 160 to 200 USD per ton.”


Commenting on the reasons behind the residents’ preference in using nut shell-burner stoves, a displaced civilian known by his initials as S. M. from west Hama countryside and now living in Deir Hassan area in the northern countryside of Idlib has told SOHR “nut shell-burner stoves are relatively safer than other alternative methods of heating, produce good amounts of energy, and easy to  used. Moreover, they do not cause fires, produce no smoke, smells or poisonous gases and do not pollute houses and tents. Moreover, nut shells cost less than diesel, as residents are no more using diesel for heating in light of the fuel high prices. Sadly, the price of nut shells also started to increase gradually, so I turned to buy nut shells of lower quality for lower price due to the dire living condition. Most of families could not buy enough amount of nut shells for this winter, and they only buy a bag or more every two days, as they cannot afford the price of the whole amount at once, while there is no place for storing large amounts. In the beginning, I had bought high-quality pistachio shells, which was the most expensive. Now, I use second and third-class nut shells. There are many types of pistachio shells, including the Syria, Turkish and Iranian, and they are sold for different prices, where the Turkish is the most expensive.”


Since mid-January, a low-pressure weather front has been battering the north Syrian region, where snow has covered most of north Aleppo countryside. Meanwhile, families, especially inhabitants of refugee camps near the Syria-Turkey border, are struggling with the freezing temperature which forces them to turn to extra alternative methods for heating.


It is worth noting that many families are still using unsafe and unhealthy materials for heating, such as very worn and used fabric, plastic, coal, remnant of petroleum products and pyrene, as they cannot afford the prices of nut shells or fire logs.


Manufacturing of hand-made nut shell-burner stoves started to be widespread in north Syria region with the recent displacement movement, where craftsmen from south Idlib countryside and north Hama countryside have passed their experience to that region. Using electricity provided by solar panels, as well as the other advantages mentioned above, nut shell-burner stoves have recently become the residents’ first choice among the other devices used for heating. The price of a nut shell-burner stove in north Syria has reached 150 to 250 USD.


Most of the residents in north Syria regime abandoned diesel heaters years ago due to the considerable increase in fuel prices, while several petroleum companies in HTS-held areas, with “Watad” company being the most prominent, continue stockpiling fuel, forcing civilians to turn to cheaper and safer methods to stay warm.