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Poor People Suffering Increases as Prices Rocket: Rural Area Residents Most Affected
Moneer Al-Omari (YEMEN POST)
Article Date: September 01, 2008
Prices of food staples in Yemen have increased over the last two years 40 percent more than the international level increase, and these increases have overshadowed the lives of poor and limited-income citizens, according to a recent study.
Statistics of the Central Statistics Organization for the period stretching between September 2006 (the time of the Presidential elections) and December 2007, surprisingly shows that there has been no change in the price of bread, while it is generally known that the bread loaf price doubled, as the loaf of bread became half in size of what it used to be in that period.
Months later, the price increased even more, while making the breadís size bigger for the meantime. A loaf of bread bought in the past for YR 10 is bought now for YR 20 and fixed rates were assigned by the Ministry of Trade and Industry as for the weight and the price of bread in the capital, instead of buying in pieces.
The report pointed out that the prices of all food staples and basic commodities have increased 11 percent; however, the increase in wheat flour prices reached record levels. A 50-kilo of wheat sack is sold now for YR 6,000 (some $30), while it was sold at YR 2,700 by 2006.
Prices of food commodities in general and wheat flour, a key component of Yemeni meals, in particular increased markedly after the local and presidential elections on September 20, 2006.
More suffering in rural areas
According to the report, suffering of poor people is tougher in rural areas where poverty is widespread and persistent. There had been not much change in poverty rates over the period 1998-2006 despite the government's strategy to alleviate poverty especially in rural areas.
Based on the Household Budget Survey, the report revealed that there has been a constant increase in poverty rates since January 2007, particularly in rural areas.
From that time, the proportion of the population unable to meet their basic food needs had risen 20 percent, and the proportion below the national poverty line rose to 46 percent, therefore, reversing all the gains in poverty reduction made between 1998 and 2006.
Though prices have been rocketing since January 2007, the government did nothing to curb these increases save timid attempts by the Yemeni Economic Corporation which made several interferences to stable the prices of food; however, this did not resolve the problem. Thus, the situation became even worse.
The study also shows that a large proportion of the population is suffering from food poverty, therefore, unable to even meet their basic food needs.
The increase in poverty is more pronounced in rural areas with the rate nearly double that of urban areas.
This reflects both the greater vulnerability of the rural population because they are already clustered below the poverty line, as well as the high food cost, adding to the higher transportation cost and the lack of domestic production.
Poor people suffering is expected to continue, especially when experts believe that food prices will continue to rise, prompted by different reasons ranging from the dryness and bad weather in American and Australian lands producing these food commodities, as well as turning to crops for bi-fuel whose demand is on the rise.
The report as well hints that poverty clearly affects more than half the population in Yemen, and this has major implications in terms of the most effective options and mechanisms for dealing with it.
It also shows that more than half the rural population in Al-Baidha provinces can not even feed themselves, at respectively 54 percent. There are also 8 governorates with overall poverty rates of over 65 percent.
Amran comes in first place with a poverty rate of 83 percent and Shabwa, Al Jawf, Lahj and Abyan show rates of respectively 71, 68, 68 and 67 percent, with higher rates in rural areas of these governorates.
To resolve the current food problems, the study recommends that the government reviews the development plans and strategies as these plans are blamed for the fall of the agricultural sector contribution to the local the GDP.
The sectors contribution fell from 24 percent in 1990 to 10.5 percent in 2005, turning Yemen into a big importer of key food stables. The country depends entirely on imports as over 85 percent of key food commodities are imported.The study called for doubling the allocations of Food Supporting Program as a key component in alleviating poverty and addressing the needs of poor people.