Ukraine war adds to woes of war-ravaged Yemenis

Food prices have spiked in Yemen since beginning of Russia's war on Ukraine.

Ukraine war adds to woes of war-ravaged Yemenis

As Russia’s war on Ukraine enters its fourth week, the conflict has complicated the woes of millions of people in Yemen, a country engulfed by civil war and facing the worst humanitarian crisis in decades.

As the world's largest and fourth-largest exporters of wheat, Russia and Ukraine are major players of the global grains market, ensuring the food security of numerous countries around the world.

Combined, the two countries account for 29% of the global wheat trade, according to World Food Program (WFP).

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said last week that the international body is set to launch an appeal for an almost $4.3 billion aid package for war-stricken Yemen to help over 17 million people in the country.

He said that almost three-quarters of Yemen's population will depend on humanitarian assistance in 2022.

Griffiths described Ukraine as a “breadbasket” and underlined that ending war in the European country “is of greatest importance” since “it has secondary and tertiary impacts upon the new harvest, the new planting season.”

The impact of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis on Yemen is also complicated by the fact that countries influential in Yemen such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates also have a stake in the ongoing conflict since they are among world’s highest energy exporters.

Food security

Head of the Economic Media Center in Yemen, Mustafa Nasr, said about a third of wheat imported into the Yemeni market comes from Russia and Ukraine.

"The quantity of wheat imported into Yemen will be directly affected, and importers will be pushed to search for alternative sources, which are usually higher and more expensive," he told Anadolu Agency.

Nasr warned that the rise in wheat prices globally will negatively affect Yemen, which imports about 90% of its wheat needs from global markets.

Last week, Richard Ragan, the WFP representative in Yemen, told a UN press conference that Yemen gets almost a million tons of grain from Ukraine and nearly another million tons from Russia, making life in the Arab country already at “the brink of famine” bleak.

Wheat prices hit a record $13.6350 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade earlier this month.

The other impact on Yemen, according to Nasr, is the rise of oil prices and the effect it has on freight and transportation prices, which negatively impact the economic situation in the country.

While the Russian war in Ukraine affects the whole world, Nasr believes that poor countries like Yemen are hardest-hit by the conflict.

However, he hopes the Russian-Ukrainian crisis will push Yemenis “to focus on farming and producing grains at the local level."

High prices

Waheed Al-Fawdaei, a Yemeni economic analyst, said the Ukrainian crisis has caused the prices of basic commodities in Yemen to rise.

He believes that it will be difficult for Yemen to find alternatives to wheat imports from Ukraine or Russia due to the fluctuation of prices of basic commodities and their high global demand.

Yemen has been engulfed by violence and instability since 2014, when Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels captured much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.

The conflict has created one of the world's worst man-made humanitarian crises, with nearly 80% of the country, or about 30 million people, in need of humanitarian assistance and protection and more than 13 million are in danger of starvation, according to UN estimates.