Yemen food prices remain high despite global decrease [Archives:2008/1153/Local News]

May 8 2008

By: Hamed Thabet
SANA'A, May 7 ) Although the price of wheat and rice has decreased globally by 40 percent this month and Minister of Trade Yayha Al-Mutawakkil recently traveled to Pakistan to lobby for more food imports, stable cereal prices will remain high in Yemen for the time being.

These price increases make the threat of starvation real for nearly half of Yemeni citizens who live below the poverty line, in addition to the 100 million people worldwide who have fallen into poverty in only the last two years.

Yahya Al-Mutawakil, Yemeni Minister of Trade & Industry, traveled to Pakistan on May 5 in order to negotiate with Pakistani officials about increasing stable food imports, especially wheat and rice, to Yemen, said Abd Al-Elah Al-Shaibani, a deputy minister in the ministry.

The Yemeni market imports 90 percent of all goods they sell and 90 percent of Yemen's wheat supply is also imported.

Al-Mutawakil said at a conference on Saturday that the price of American white wheat dropped 16 percent since the beginning of May, and the government plans to continue encouraging wheat farming as a follow-up to its newly-introduced food security policy. Even if Yemeni farmers plant more wheat, the country will not be able to benefit from the policy immediately, which won't help the country's added six percent that have fallen below the poverty line because of the price hikes.

Food prices, particularly for wheat, increased about 200 percent in Yemen this year, while the price of wheat has increased 120 percent globally. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the global price of rice has more than doubled in the last year.

A number of factors, predominantly the rising price of fuel, have caused the global increases. “In general