ADEN, YEMEN — Smoke was billowing from silos in the seaport of Aden in Yemen on April 8, as fighting between the country’s warring factions spread, news agency Bloomberg reported.
Clashes are continuing between Shiite Muslim Houthi gunmen and forces loyal to the country’s Saudi-backed President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi. Political turmoil has driven Yemen to the brink of disintegration and allowed al-Qaeda to flourish within striking range of neighboring Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, Bloomberg said.
The Houthis, who say they have been marginalized by the central government for decades, took over most of the capital, Sana’a, in September and have since advanced into other parts of the country.
Witnesses in Yemen told Bloomberg the silos were shelled after Houthi snipers tried to make use of them. The Aden Silos & Mills Co. and the Yemen Co. for Flour Mills & Silos have facilities near the Aden harbor, according to their websites. Calls to both companies by Bloomberg weren’t answered.
Aden Silos & Mills Co. was founded in July 1998 as a private Yemeni company by investors and Al Rowaishan Group. The company has a spot on the harbor in Yemen, according to its website, with 55,000 square meters of area.
Building started in 1999, and was completed in January 2003, with production starting that May. The company has two large flour brands, al-Mumaiyaz and Huqool, which are popular throughout Yemen.
Yemen Co. for Flour Mills & Silos is located in Ma”alla city, along the seashore of Aden, according to its website. It is part of the industrial and trading group, Hayel Saeed Anam Group of Cos. The company is involved in the production and marketing of wheat flour and other allied products. Production started in 2000 with a capacity of 1,500 tonnes per day and storage capacity of 60,000 tonnes. The company has had two major expansions, which increased production capacity to the current level of 3,750 tonnes per day and storage capacity to 170,000 tonnes. It is one of the largest flour mills in Yemen.
Its main flour brands include Sanabel, Al Thahoon and Al Baraka.
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East with four in 10 Yemenis living in poverty, according to USAID. The agriculture sector employs over half of the country’s active workforce, and is the foundation of Yemen’s rural society.
In the last decade, agricultural production has decreased, resulting in food shortages, dependency on food imports and high unemployment.
According to a country brief from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2014 average total cereal production in Yemen was estimated at 860,000 tonnes, including 430,000 tonnes of sorghum and 240,000 tonnes of wheat.
Yemen is largely dependent on imports from international markets to satisfy its domestic consumption requirement for wheat, the main staple, FAO said. The import dependency for wheat is about 95% and in the last five years, an average of 2.8 million tonnes per year of wheat was imported commercially out of a total domestic wheat utilization of about 3 million tonnes. As a consequence, the country is highly vulnerable to international commodity price increases and volatility.
The import requirement for cereals in the 2014 marketing year is estimated at about 4.1 million tonnes, about the same as in 2013, the FAO said. Most of the imports are wheat (almost 3 million tonnes), followed by some 700,000 tonnes of maize (corn) and 400,000 tonnes of rice.