THREE million Syrians need food, crops and livestock assistance, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says.

Citing a survey by the UN and the Syrian government, the organisation said on Thursday that the figure included 1.5 million Syrians who “need urgent and immediate food assistance over the next three to six months, especially in areas that have seen the greatest conflict and population displacement”.

“Close to a million people need crop and livestock assistance such as seeds, food for animals, fuel and repair of irrigation pumps,” said a joint statement by the FAO and the UN’s World Food Program (WFP).

“Further scaling up of food and livelihood assistance will be required over the next 12 months as the people needing nutritional support are expected to reach three million,” the statement said.

The survey, conducted in June by the FAO, WFP and the Syrian agriculture ministry, found that the farming sector had lost $US1.8 billion due to the conflict.

The losses included damages to crops such as wheat, barley, cherries, olive trees and vegetables, as well as to livestock and irrigation systems.

“While the economic implications of these losses are quite grave, the humanitarian implications are far more pressing,” WFP’s representative in Syria, Muhannad Hadi, said in the statement.

“The effects of these major losses are first, and most viciously, felt by the poorest in the country,” it said.

“Most of the vulnerable families the mission visited reported less income and more expenditure – their lives becoming more difficult by the day.”

Farmers have been forced to either abandon farming or leave crops unattended due to a lack of labour, the scarcity of fuel and the rise in fuel costs, and insecurity, as well as power cuts, the report found.

Harvests have been delayed in Daar’a, Homs and Hama as well as in the region around Damascus.

The report also said deforestation was on the rise as farmers used the forests for firewood due to the lack of cooking gas and fuel.

The WFP began sending food aid to Syria in October 2011 and has gradually scaled up its operations, reaching 540,000 people in July. It said it aimed to reach 850,000 people in August.