Yemen considers replacing wheat flour with composite type [Archives:2008/1129/Local News]

February 14 2008

Ismael Al-Ghaberi
SANA'A, Feb.- 11 ) The General Authority for Research and Agricultural Guidance (GARAG) at the Ministry of Agriculture is working on a study to replace wheat flour with other cereal flour like corn, legumes or potatoes for producing bread in Yemen. This kind of technique is called the composite flour technique.

''Applying this technique in Yemen, even with 10% of flour resources, will save tens of million of dollars consumed by the country in importing the wheat flour,'' said Dr. Ismail Muharram, chief of the GARAG in a workshop conducted in Sana'a on Sunday, in which 25 participants attended from the ministries of Irrigation and Agriculture, Industry, Planning and International Cooperation, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Institution, as well as a number of agriculture researchers.

In Yemen, annual wheat flour imports comprise 90-95% of people's dietary needs. Bread is considered the main staple for Yemeni people. The daily individual bread consumption is 63 grams, a low amount when compared with quantities consumed by people in ten high bread-consuming countries where quantities range from 277 grams in Belgium to 489 grams in Turkey, except that those countries are self-sufficient in wheat production. The statistics, issued in a report written by the Agriculture Research Authority, indicated a food gap in Yemen and an apparent imbalance between food production and consumption, and a resulting imbalance in food supply and demand. This caused the government to close the gap by importing wheat flour, costing the country millions of dollars annually.

According to the report, the main reasons behind the food gap are the following:

– Increase in annual population growth rate (3.1%).

– Limitation in agricultural lands (1-1.6 million hectares).

– Decrease in cereal agriculture areas and increase in farmers' tendency to plant a higher income-generating yields directed to the market (internally and externally).

– The country's trend toward economic reform that guarantees free market enterprise and prevents government support of farmers and agriculture.

– Expansion of construction projects into farms across the country.

– Occurrence of important changes in consumption patterns that led to increasing the demand on certain yields most importantly wheat products.

The report also stated that '' implementing the composite flour technique in Yemen according to the scientific studies obtained by the center in the last years can be done by replacing 10% – 30% of wheat flour with different types of corn and millet flour, considering the type of the wheat flour (quantitative and qualitative protein percentage) as well as the required bread to be produced. It is also possible to replace 20 % – 30% of wheat flour with thin corn flour and other cereals for baking cakes and biscuits.''

Based on expected quantities to be imported in 2008, which might reach 1,666,500 tons at an average of $385 per ton. Replacing 10% of wheat flour imports with locally produced thin maize flour will save an estimated $64 million.

The price of wheat flour has risen to its highest level since 1996. This is because of a huge increase in demand and fears of a decline in international productivity, which could cause wheat- importing countries like Yemen to suffer.