In remarks on Wednesday to a Russian TV channel, Assad said Western sanctions were affecting his country but that Syria still had a "wonderful relationship" with non-Western countries.
"One of the goals of sanctions is to squeeze the regime and put it in a position where it has to spend its time and resources trying to keep its economy running," said Mark Dubowitz, head of influential lobby group the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has been involved in drafting sanctions with U.S. lawmakers.
"This is sanctions busting that the international community is willing to tolerate because it redirects the energies of the regime."
Syria's state grains agency issued an international tender on April 30 to buy 150,000 tonnes of animal feed barley but had yet to make a purchase, trade sources said.
Syria has struggled to source its sugar needs and is also facing shortages of fuel and heating fuel, adding to the hardships faced by people.
Syria was also trying to find ways around the finance freeze using conduits in neighbouring Lebanon.
"Lebanese traders buy it to sell on to Syria as they have other means of getting money from Syria. They ship directly to Syria but the financial transaction is done in Lebanon," a trade source said. "The majority of transactions are done against faxed copies hence the banks don't usually see the end destination of the cargo."
In contrast, Iran, Syria's main ally in the Middle East, has managed to purchase over 2 million tonnes of milling wheat in recent months, after the Islamic Republic managed to sidestep Western sanctions using alternative financing routes.
"Despite the severe economic pressure that it faces domestically, I expect Iran to help the regime. The Iranians will likely seek to supply Syria with grain, but may struggle to supply the quantities required and in a timely manner," said Anthony Skinner with risk analysis company Maplecroft. "So this is unlikely to provide a sustainable and long-term solution."