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Yemeni Raisin Farmers Lose as Domestic Market Gets Dumped by Chinese Products
Moneer Al-Omari (YEMEN POST
Article Date: October 13, 2008
Yemeni raisin growers have faced increased losses this year, partly because the grape harvesting was a bit late and the unprecedented increase in its prices in the domestic markets.
Other observers blame the last war between the Yemeni army and Houthi followers to be behind the rise, especially when the war field stretched from Sa'ada to Sana'a Province's Bani Hushaish district, areas famous for producing the finest types of Yemeni grapes and raisin.
However, these are not the main reasons behind the losses Yemeni raisin farmers faced, as the Center for Economic Studies warned against the increased losses of Yemeni grape producers months ago, because of dumping domestic market with Chinese products.
The center estimated the losses of Yemeni raisin producers to fall between 60 to 70 percent during the Eid season, the time in which farmers market raisin inside and outside the country.
In a letter directed to the ministers of trade and agriculture, the center demanded both ministries to work for easing the current crisis and to work for adopting promotional mechanisms that could encourage grape and raisin growers.
It warned that the current situation may lead most grape farmers to abandon growing grapes and resort to qat plantation, especially in areas producing grapes and raisin in Khawlan, Sa'ada, Bani Hushaish, and other areas.
The center further mentioned that cheap prices of Chinese and Iranian raisin pushed Yemeni consumers to buy it at the cost of the Yemeni raisin. One kilo of Chinese raisin was sold for YR 700 to 1,000, while the finest types of Yemeni raisin were sold against 3,500 (some $17).
“I used to buy four kilos of raisin each time I return to my home in the village to spend the Eid vacation with my parents and family in the countryside. However, I bought only two kilos this year because raisin prices were too high,” said Abdullah Al-Hazmi who works for a private company in Sana’a.
Al-Hazmi, originally from Ibb, went on to say that he could buy Chinese or Iranian raisin for a cheaper price. “Though the markets are full of Chinese raisins which are sold for cheap prices, I preferred to buy Yemeni raisins because they have a special flavor and taste. Further, my family does not like or eat Chinese raisins.”
Mohammed Al-Khawlani, who owns a shop for selling Yemeni raisins, nuts, almond and other Eid commodities, revealed that prices of Yemeni raisin are too expensive this year.
"Early this year, we sold our stock of raisin for YR 1,000 to 1,500 per kilo. When we sought to buy new quantities of raisin before Eid, we were stunned at raisin farmers demanded higher prices," said Al-Khawlani.
Al-Khawlani continued that this increase of prices made customers give up buying Yemeni raisins, therefore, seeking cheap raisins, mostly Chinese or Iranian. "Our sales for this year cannot, in any way, be compared to what was sold last year. Most customers seeking Yemeni raisins were forced to buy fewer quantities because of the the increased prices," he noted.
The center also disclosed some cheating operations as some traders resorted to mixing Yemeni raisins with the imported Chinese raisins to sell it in the domestic market or re-export it to neighboring countries, hinting that such a process is dangerous and badly affects the excellent fame of the Yemeni raisin.
It also stressed the importance of keeping the high quality of the Yemeni raisins, as it is a cash crop, demanding imposing severe penalties against those responsible for commercial cheating.Further, the center asked the concerned authorities to design special markets for selling the Yemeni raisin as in Souk Al-Milh (roughly Salt Market) in the Old City of Sana'a where only Yemeni raisins are allowed into the market. "We demand the government to carry on its national responsibly, to make clear policies and strategies that encourages farmers, and to develop raisin production mechanisms through modern techniques with high quality and reasonable prices so that Yemeni raisins do not disappear from the markets as was the case with other crops like coffee and cotton," read the letter sent by the center.