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BEIRUT/AMMAN: Syria needs to import between 180,000 tonnes and 200,000 tonnes of wheat a month, the economy minister was cited as saying on Sunday, blaming a shortfall on "militias" preventing farmers from selling their wheat to the state.

Mohamed Samer al-Khalil was quoted in al-Watan newspaper as saying the imports would cost about $400 million but did not clarify a timeframe for spending that figure.

Syria's economy is collapsing under the weight of a complex, multi-sided conflict now in its 10th year, as well as a financial crisis in neighbouring Lebanon.

Syrian authorities blame Western sanctions for widespread hardship among ordinary residents, where the currency collapse has led to soaring prices and people struggling to afford food and basic supplies.

Khalil is part of a new government Syrian President Bashar al Assad appointed in August led by former minister Hussein Arnous. He dismissed the previous cabinet to defuse anger over deepening economic hardship and a rare outbreak of anti-Assad protests in government held areas.

Before the conflict, Syria used to produce 4 million tonnes of wheat in a good year and was able to export 1.5 million tonnes. This year it has produced between 2.1 million and 2.4 million tonnes of wheat this year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates.