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Yemen's Food Imports Steady Despite Red Sea Disruptions, But Economic Woes Persist

Updated: Feb 19

Navigating Challenges: Yemen's Fragile Stability Amidst Red Sea Disruptions and Economic Pressures

The cover photo: the city of Aden in Yemen. The image shows the city center, with its high-rise buildings. In the foreground, there is a busy harbor with container ships, cargo ships, and smaller boats. In the background, the volcanic mountains surround the city.


Yemen's Food Security Concerns and Economic Crisis

• Yemen's food import flows remain steady in January 2024, exceeding the previous two-year average and monthly average of 2023.

• Rising costs due to increased freight and insurance due to Red Sea disruptions are expected to drive up prices of staple foods, fuel, and other imported goods.

• Yemen's economic situation is already dire, with severe revenue shortages due to halted oil production and exports, delays in civil servant salary payments, and deterioration of essential public services.

• A recent foreign currency auction fell short of trader demand by 40%, highlighting the pressure on Yemen's foreign reserves.


While ongoing conflict and disruptions in the Red Sea continue to threaten Yemen's stability, a recent report from the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) offers a glimmer of hope. Import flows of essential food items like wheat, rice, and cooking oil remained surprisingly steady in January 2024, exceeding both the previous two-year average and the monthly average of 2023. This positive trend is expected to continue in the coming months, with an anticipated arrival of at least 170,000 metric tons of additional food supplies.

However, this news is tempered by concerns about rising costs. The increase in freight and insurance due to Red Sea disruptions is expected to drive up prices of staple foods, fuel, and other imported goods. While immediate price hikes haven't been observed yet, particularly in Houthi-controlled areas where existing stockpiles offer temporary relief, experts anticipate them to hit within the next few months.

This impending price surge adds another layer of complexity to Yemen's already dire economic situation. The country grapples with severe revenue shortages due to halted oil production and exports, leading to delays in civil servant salary payments and a deterioration of essential public services like electricity. Aden, for example, experienced unusually long power outages exceeding 8 hours per day in January, highlighting the strain on critical infrastructure.

A recent attempt to stabilize the situation through a foreign currency auction, likely facilitated by the final tranche of aid from Saudi Arabia, proved insufficient. The auction amount of $40 million fell short of trader demand by 40%, highlighting the continued pressure on Yemen's foreign reserves. With no further auctions since January and the Aden-based rial experiencing accelerated depreciation, the need for sustained international support becomes even more critical.

The combination of potential food price hikes and a struggling economy raises serious concerns about food security for millions of Yemenis. Continued international efforts are crucial to address the underlying causes of the crisis, facilitate the free flow of goods through the Red Sea, and ensure that essential supplies reach those most in need.


@UNReliefChief @WFP @UNOPS @SaudiEmbassyYemen


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