Written By: Zaid al-Alaya’a
Article Date: Oct 14, 2011 - 9:15:10 PM
Prices for food, water and fuel in all major cities in Yemen continue to be high as the sudden increase in the price of rice during the final two weeks of August 2011 has reversed during the first two weeks of September 2011; the average increase since January 2011 is now 52%.
Regular blackouts continue and water prices remain 300% to 500% higher than normal, stated a World Food Program report.
The effects of the political stalemate, civil unrest and high food and fuel prices are further worsening an already complicated and critical food security situation in Yemen. The Yemeni Riyal (YR) continues to be weak and exchange rate is currently set at 234 YR to the dollar in the black market, while the official government exchange rate is 218 YR, stated the report.
The price of a cooking gas cylinder in the black market is still about 170% higher than the official price and easily found. Prices and supplies of fuel remain stable compared to the last reporting period.
Public and private transportation prices also remain to be high. The sudden increase in the price of rice during the final two weeks of August 2011 (i.e. 61%) has reversed during the first two weeks of September 2011; the average increase since January 2011 is now 52%. This is still much higher than the price in July 2011 (45%). During this reporting period, sugar has increased only one percent from last period, while overall sugar prices have decreased slightly from last month (from 44% to 41%). The prices of wheat flour remained as it has been since the last reporting period, at a high of 41%, stated the report.
The price of bread is still 50% above what it had been only a few months ago. Vegetable prices have been increased, as well. The price of tomatoes has increased by 167% over the past several months. A lot of citizens have been complaining about the high increase of prices for basic food materials and some of the families cannot afford to eat three mails. Mohammed Ali Slah, 42, government employee could not respond to all the basic needs of his family. “Businessmen or tradesmen and salesmen also have abandoned all aspects of mercy n citizens. During this difficult time that Yemen is witnessing, greedy tradesmen are racing to make as much profits as possible,” he said. He said that there is an absence of government watch or monitoring of food prices and this encouraged tradesmen and salesmen to play with prices the way they want.
According to Feminine Early Warning System (FEWS) NET satellite maps, the level of rainfall during the first two weeks of September 2011 has decreased in many parts of the country. However, this is normal when compared with historical trends. The situation in Sana’a City and its environs remains volatile. In the nearby rural districts of Arhab and Nihm, armed opposition tribesmen continue to battle the government’s Republican Guards.
Similar clashes persist in Taiz, while the conflict between government security forces and militants affiliated with Al-Qaeda has now displaced an estimated 90,000 persons. Other governorates have also witnessed demonstrations and civil unrest during the reporting period, stated the report. On the human and animal disease outbreaks, the report states that the outbreak of cholera in Abyan is under control. However cases of acute watery diarrhea have been reported in neighboring governorates, showing the potential for further deterioration of the health situation. Preliminary insights on effects at the household and community level, Yemen’s food availability is ensured by commercial imports.
This makes the country highly vulnerable to international market price volatility, as was demonstrated in 2007/08. Given that 96% of Yemenis are net buyers, high food prices play a significant role in household food insecurity. The gradual price increase of main food commodities has reduced the purchasing power of the most severely food insecure families.
These families currently devote 30-35% of their income to bread alone and the inflation of bread prices could prove overwhelming. WFP field exercise conducted at the end of May 2011 in some of the most food-insecure governorates of Yemen revealed that households are opting for negative co ping strategies, such as the reduction of meal sizes, buying cheaper and less preferred food s, reducing consumption of meat or fish, borrowing and buying food on credit, chewing qat and skipping meals entirely.
Those households whose livelihoods do not include qat production opted for even more severe coping mechanisms, such as reducing their number of meals, avoiding all consumption of meat/fish and fasting. The aforementioned field exercise also revealed that interviewed households are consuming less or no meat/fish. A follow-up assessment to the WFP’s 2010 Comprehensive Food Security Survey is scheduled to take place in November this year. Until then, there is no immediate data available to assess food consumption patterns at a national level.
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