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Yemen's wheat stocks to be 'depleted by April'

The UN previously estimated that Yemen had three months' supply of wheat [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 February, 2017

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Import controls, an ongoing conflict and rising locust numbers have presented an even more precarious situation for Yemen's food supplies than previously expected.
Yemen's wheat supplies will run out at the end of March, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predicted in a report, adding that the war-torn country, which is currently on the brink of famine, is in a more desperate position than previously thought.

At the end of January, the UN's top official in the impoverished country told Reuters that there were roughly three months' supply of wheat left in the country.

"Yemen is facing the largest food security emergency in the world. Without immediate action, the situation is likely to worsen in 2017," the FAO report said.

The report comes after almost two years of war in Yemen between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The conflict began after peaceful demonstrations calling for the downfall of the Saleh regime in 2011 were met with violent and often brutal responses. Ali Abdullah Saleh was given immunity and removed from power and replaced with Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

In September 2014, the Houthi rebels, a group which Saleh had previously fought when in power, aligned with the ousted leader to bring down Hadi, a former VP and close confidante of Saleh.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign to help the internationally recognised government of Hadi regain control of territory lost to the Houthi rebels.

Figures suggest more than 10,000 people, half of which civilians, have died since this intervention, while three million more have been forced into displacement.​

The conflict has also ravaged the country's economy and agricultural industry. Over 80 percent of Yemenis are currently in debt and 7.3 million of the country's population are classed by the UN as "severely food insecure".

Major traders in Yemen have ceased new wheat imports due to a shutdown in trade finance and a lack of import guarantees from the central bank.

Given that the country is dependent on imports for more than 90 percent of its wheat supplies, this would hasten the decline of food availability in local markets and drastically increase food insecurity in Yemen

"Given that the country is dependent on imports for more than 90 percent of its wheat supplies, this would hasten the decline of food availability in local markets and drastically increase food insecurity in Yemen," the FAO said.

To make matters worse, the Saudi-led coalition has imposed stringent controls on Yemen's ports that are under its control. The main port of Hodeidah is also severely damaged, with the UN hoping to bring in mobile cranes to ease congestion there.

Away from the key military battlegrounds, locusts have also begun breeding along the Red Sea Coast and the Gulf of Aden. 

Away from the key military battlegrounds, locusts have also begun breeding along the Red Sea Coast and the Gulf of Aden

Experts say that due to the ongoing conflict, it has been virtually impossible to monitor and control Yemen's locust situation.

In response to the country's desperate situation, the UN on Wednesday made a plea for $2.1 billion from the international community for aid to feed desperate Yemenis.

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