Yemeni traders put profit before people

Yemeni traders put profit before people
4 min read
08 April, 2015
Feature: Traders are taking advantage of crisis caused by Saudi-led bombing by raising prices of basic commodities.
Basic commodities are becoming harder to find in Yemen [Anadolu]

Umm Abdallah, a 30-year-old Yemeni mother of five, is worried her family going hungry as a food shortages hit the city of Taiz.

Markets have emptied since the start of the Saudi-led air campaign was launched, and now Umm Abdullah has just 10kg of flour left to feed her children.

Merchants who still have stock have doubled their prices, claiming that the war has prevented them from importing more supplies into the city.

"How am I going to get food for them?" asked Umm Abdallah. "My son was working in Shabwa province and sending us money in the south where there is fighting.

"Work has stopped for him so what will our future be like with the crazy prices? All of this because Yemenis, just like us, want to maximize their profits at our expense?"

Monopoly on food

Mohammad al-Yousefi, who lives in Bani Yousef, about an hour's drive from Taiz, has scoured all the shops in the city looking for cooking oil. Prices have doubled in recent weeks.

"Wheat is available in the city however the price of 50kg of wheat is now around $50. Before Decisive Storm it was about $32."

During a visit to Taiz, al-Araby found a well-known wheat dealer storing about two million bags of wheat in his company's stockrooms.

Local sources said the owner of the shop has ruled out putting the wheat on the market soon, despite the dire needs of the city's residents for flour.

The price of two million bags are now estimated to have gone up to $89m, and this sum will likely rise if the war continues.

Taha al-Fasil, a professor of economics at Sanaa University, said: "The blockade on Yemeni ports is not allowing basic needs to be covered. The wholesalers used to put their bags of wheat for display in the street to attract buyers, but now they are without a doubt taking advantage of the situation. These are traders who do not fear God.

     These are traders who do not fear God.
- Taha al-Fasil, Sanaa University

"In every crisis there are winners and losers."

Fasil says that the military strikes on the country must come with humanitarian assistance, and ships coming to the country must be searched for weapons, so that civilian supplies can enter Yemen

"Yemenis are the last thing the people and parties in power think about here. I hope the UN intervenes to give Yemenis access to food," Fasil said.

"Not all of us are Houthis or Ali Abdullah Saleh supporters. They are only three percent of us, yet we are the ones who are suffering from the warlords and war profiteers."

The World Food Programme [WFP] released a report in 2014 that stated 16 million Yemenis lived below the poverty line, more than half of the country's 26 million population.

Yemen imports about 40 million tons of wheat each year. According to the country's ministry of trade, there are 600,000 tons of wheat reserves that would last the country four months.

Fuel shortages

Sanaa taxi driver Ahmad al-Rabadi is also suffering from the shortage of fuel.

"There is no petrol at all, I can't even find it on the black market so lots of cars, water pumps and cereal mills have stopped running," he said.

Mohammed Abd al-Hafiz said., of Taiz, said: "All the petrol garages have stopped working in Sanaa, Dhamar, and some stopped working in Taiz on the evening of the start of Decisive Storm.

"The Houthis and their ally Saleh could be behind this to anger people and make them come out against Decisive Storm."

There are 52 million weapons in Yemen and the arms trade is an important source of revenue for militia and other illegal groups.

A military source in Taiz said many Yemenis have taken advantage of the chaos, and made huge sums from looting military bases before the bombing began.

The source told al-Araby that weapons were being openly sold in the streets of the capital. "This has helped ignite the flames of war between the conflicting parties only for the blood dealers' benefit."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.