Reference Date: 15-May-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Limited progress made towards attenuating conflict and resolving political instability since last FAO Special Alert on 15 April 2015
Across the country, an estimated 16 million people (more than 60 percent of population) are in need of humanitarian assistance with more than 300 000 people displaced as a result of current conflict (OCHA)
Start of 2015 main cropping season in April coincided with escalation of conflict thus compromising outcome
Extreme fuel shortages are hampering day-to-day activities, including delivery of humanitarian food and medical assistance. WFP emergency food distribution was disrupted in end-April due to severe fuel shortages until WFP chartered ship delivered fuel to Yemen on 10 May 2015
Food prices have risen sharply in last few months, with staple wheat grain and wheat flour prices increasing by about 42 and 44 percent in April compared to February
Farm gate prices in some areas are very low owing to damaged infrastructure and lack of fuel thus negatively affecting farmers income
WFP aims to scale up its emergency response to reach 2.5 million conflict-affected people between May and July
FAO, together with partners, is preparing to carry out an assessment to update the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) for Food security
Shifting political dynamics and escalating conflict resulted in a power vacuum that brought fresh concerns about the political and economic stability of the country.
Current cropping season in jeopardy
According to the seasonal calendar, land preparation for the first season starts in February/March. Sorghum (the main crop for the central and southern uplands) planting lasts from mid-April to June. The first rainy season normally starts in both central and southern uplands in March, but the late onset of the rains particularly in the central zone delayed cultivation of cereal and fodder crops. Although rainfall improved in the first decade of May, areas along the coast remain below the long-term average.
Farmers are being squeezed by high input costs and low output prices. Some governorates are heavily affected by the conflict (such as Sa’ada, Lahaj, Taiz, Aden and Abyan) many of the crop production farms, storage facilities and water pumps were destroyed affecting the harvest of irrigated crops, including fruits and vegetables. Marketing of fruits and vegetables is severely affected due to fuel shortages to transport to consumers. Owing to the lack of marketing channels and available refrigeration, producer prices of vegetables and fruits at the farm gate decreased about 5-10 times compared to pre-conflict levels.
Shortage of fuels continues affecting also livestock and poultry production preventing transport to the markets and limits the flow of urban shoppers to rural areas. In the main production areas of Tihamah, the price of live animals halved on average. Vaccines are no longer available. The price of eggs at the farm gate decreased from YER 7 800 to YER 3 800 for a 12-pack carton (each pack contains 30 eggs). To limit their losses, farmers started selling their laying hen flocks, particularly those aged 50 weeks and more. A laying hen currently sells for an average of YER 150. Due to excess supply of hens, some farmers are reported to simply release the flocks for the public with distress prices. The price of one-day old chicks decreased from YER 140 YR to YER 20. Acute shortages of fuel and electricity halted animal feed production, which coupled with the lack of imports resulted in market shortages. Responding to higher price, farmers halved the use of compound feed, and consequently reduced egg production by 30 to 40 percent. Packing materials are also reported to have increased in price.
Coupled with insecurity and damages to agricultural infrastructure and machinery, shortage and soaring fuel prices are affecting day-to-day farm operations at the time of major and crucial agricultural activities such as planting and harvesting.
Below-average cereal harvest in 2014 result in slightly increased import requirement
Harvesting of the 2014 main season wheat crop was concluded in September and that of sorghum in November. Total cereal production was estimated at 700 000 tonnes of cereals, including 342 000 tonnes of sorghum and 192 000 tonnes of wheat.
Yemen is largely dependent on imports from international markets to satisfy its domestic consumption requirement for wheat, the main staple. The wheat import dependency is about 95 percent and in the last five years, an average of 2.8 million tonnes per annum of wheat was imported annually out of a total domestic wheat utilization of about 3 million tonnes.
The import requirement for cereals in the 2014 marketing year (January/December) was estimated at about 4.5 million tonnes, including 3 million tonnes of wheat, 700 000 tonnes of maize and 400 000 tonnes of rice. This compares with 4.4 million tonnes of cereals imported in 2013.
The ongoing conflict has serious impacts on food imports, transportation network and market supply, and hence on prices of both imported staples and locally-produced commodities.
Economic prospects deteriorate further
Oil revenue has been declining owing to reduced production and low international prices. In addition, several countries and international organizations in the region suspended financial support and aid to the Government. Consequently, the already declining foreign exchange reserves (standing at USD 4.7 billion at the end of 2014, about half of their peak levels in 2008) are expected to decline further. Maintaining current levels of subsidies and salaries in the public sector remains uncertain.
Conflict-induced disruptions on commodity supply chains and the likely depreciation of the Yemeni Riyal (YER) are expected to put an upward pressure on prices, despite the prevailing low levels of international prices. In November 2014, the national annual inflation rate stood at 9.5 percent, up from 5.8 percent in May 2014, its lowest level since December 2012. Increases in inflation, especially food inflation, are expected to increase further reducing the purchasing power of a large number of the population. Moreover, millions of poor households who relied on the suspended crucial social welfare/safety net programmes, including public works and budgetary support implemented by the World Bank and the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), would be seriously affected.
Shortages of food and fuel reported
Extreme fuel shortages are severely hampering everyday activities, including the delivery of humanitarian aid and medicines to the vulnerable, conflict-affected population. The running of water pumps for sanitation and agriculture is also affected.
At the end of April, the WFP emergency food distribution came to a halt due to severe fuel shortages until a WFP-chartered ship delivered fuel to Yemen to service humanitarian operations on 10 May 2015. Cooking gas, petrol and diesel are only sporadically available on the markets fetching premium prices. Highest prices of fuel in the first week of May 2015 were reported in Aden, with YER 1 000 per litre of petrol, about a five-fold increase compared to the pre-crisis period.
In April 2015, the average nominal retain price of wheat grain was YER 176 per kg, while that of wheat flour was YER 198 per kg which have increased by 23.7 percent and 28.1 percent, respectively, from March 2015 (and by 41.8 percent and 44.4 percent from February 2015). Wheat flour is not available in almost all markets of the most affected governorates, including in Aden, Lahaj, Ad Daleh, Sa’ada, Taiz, and Sana’a. Onions, beans and sugar are reported to be sporadically available in Aden, Hajjah and Sa’ada.
Nearly 16 million people in need of humanitarian assistance
During the last several weeks the humanitarian situation has sharply deteriorated not only at urban centres where the conflict is taking place but also at the rural areas affecting agricultural livelihoods.
After decades of chronic under-development and socio-economic crisis, 15.9 million people, over 60 percent of the population, are now estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance. Children and women have been the hardest hit. Political instability, exacerbated by ongoing conflict in the north and south of the country, means that millions of Yemenis have little access to Government services and support. Many people do not have access to clean water and are struggling to feed themselves and their families. Basic service infrastructure is near collapse; with fewer and fewer people able to access life-saving assistance, basic health care and education.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis conducted in September 2014 by FAO, WFP, Government and other partners, classified five governorates (Hajjah, Sa’ada, Shabwa, Abyan and Lahaj) as facing a food insecurity emergency (IPC Phase 4). Twelve governorates were classified as facing a food security “Crisis” or IPC Phase 3, Hodeidah, Rayma, Al Dhale, Al Beyda, Ibb, Taiz, AlMahweet, Sana’a (rural), Mareb, Dhamar, Amran and Aljawf. Of the 10.6 million food insecure people across the country, about 4.8 million were in Emergency Phase, while 5.8 million were in Crisis Phase. With the rapid escalation of the conflict and insecurity, the disruption of markets, employment opportunities and rural livelihoods, the food security situation is expected to deteriorate significantly. FAO, together with partners, is organizing IPC analysis with the National Technical Working Group (NTWG) and the report is expected to be finalized during the first week of June 2015.
WFP responded to the emergency humanitarian needs through unconditional and conditional food assistance and cash transfers to the affected populations. The WFP aims to scale up its emergency response to reach 2.5 million conflict-affected people between May and July. Urgent mobilization of resources is needed for safety nets. Airstrikes have repeatedly damaged the airports in Sana’a and Hodeidah, hampering direct emergency relief from abroad.
As part of the flash appeal, FAO designed a project on emergency livelihood support to conflict affected displaced, host families and food
insecure beneficiaries. The intervention covers on animal health, animal feed, seeds, tools and solar pumps. The intervention on livelihood-specific and seasonally appropriate inputs provided, food production capacity and availability protected in ‘crisis’ and ‘stressed’ households. Moreover, the intervention will cover livestock vaccination of 1.5 million animals and treatment services provided to farmers and agro-pastoralists' households in seven governorates and 24 districts.