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Main cereal harvest to temporarily boost rural households’ food consumption

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Yemen
  • October 2023 - May 2024
Main cereal harvest to temporarily boost rural households’ food consumption

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Area of Concern: Amran Governorate
  • Key Messages
    • Across Yemen, income-earning opportunities remain highly limited and prices of food and essential non-food commodities remain above average due to the direct and indirect impacts of more than eight years of protracted conflict. While the country’s main cereal harvest season is expected to temporarily support improved access to food and income in the October 2023 to January 2024 period, recent further reductions in humanitarian food assistance and, in areas controlled by the internationally-recognized government (IRG), deteriorating economic conditions and rising market prices are expected to counteract seasonal improvements for many poor households. Overall, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to remain widespread at the governorate level, with an increase in the number of households facing food consumption gaps expected in IRG-controlled areas due to economic deterioration.
    • After several phases of assistance scale-down since the beginning of 2022, WFP has reported further reductions in ration sizes due to funding shortages. As of September 2023, Yemen’s 13 million beneficiaries were being reached approximately once every 45 days with an assistance distribution equivalent to only around 41 percent of a households’ minimum energy requirements for a one-month period. As such, beneficiary households have seen the contribution of assistance to their total minimum food needs fall from around 80 percent in the latter half of 2021 to around 27 percent currently. With limited opportunities to expand income-earning, this is expected to be resulting in an increase in the number of poor households facing food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes nationwide.[1] 
    • In highland areas, the country’s main cereal harvest has nearly concluded, while lowland areas will harvest from around mid-November to December/January. Additionally, the vegetable cultivation season will span November to January in lowland areas and the main citrus harvest will last through December in highland areas. This will provide a seasonal increase in poor households’ access to food and income from crop production and labor opportunities. However, the improvements will be only temporary, with households’ cereal stocks expected to be depleted even earlier than the typical two months in highland areas due to below-average yields following late and below-average rainfall during Yemen’s second rainy season (July to October). 
    • Despite sustained comparatively low levels of conflict, economic warfare between the IRG and Sana’a-based authorities (SBA) is ongoing, with the people of Yemen suffering the most. Most notably, the SBA continues to block oil exports from IRG-controlled seaports using the threat of drone strikes, denying the IRG their key source of revenue. This is resulting in a growing inability of the IRG to support the public budget, and is also driving depreciation of the local currency and rising food and fuel prices. Given the limited ability of poor households to expand income-earning, many poor households in IRG-controlled areas are expected to be increasingly unable to meet their basic needs, with a growing number likely to be facing food consumption gaps.

    [1] This analysis is current as of October. Since the completion of this analysis, new information has indicated to FEWS NET that a pause in emergency food assistance in SBA-controlled areas will start in December. FEWS NET's acute food insecurity projections will be updated to reflect this development in the forthcoming December Food Security Outlook Update report.


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    There has been no notable progress in peace negotiations between the Sana’a-based authorities (SBA) and the Saudi-led coalition (SLC) since Ramadan in April 2023, six months following the expiration of the official truce. Prisoner exchange negotiations have also stalled in recent weeks. While the unofficial truce has remained in place, tensions are high following the recent SBA drone strike near the Yemen-Saudi border in September, the first cross-border attack since the start of the official truce in April 2022. The attack led to the killing of four Bahraini soldiers in southern Saudi Arabia, though is unlikely to have impacted civilian population movement or directly affected livelihoods, as districts along the Yemen-Saudi border, namely in Hajjah and Al Jawf governorates, are remote military outpost areas with limited civilian presence. Though the incident has led to increased violence, no retaliatory military response has been launched by the SLC against the SBA as of mid-October 2023. Meanwhile, disputes between the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and local factions within the Saudi-backed internationally recognized government (IRG) remained unresolved, with the STC refusing to disburse salaries of public sector employees.

    In the third quarter of 2023, levels of conflict remained relatively low and similar to levels recorded since the expiration of the official truce (in October 2022), according to data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) (Figure 1). However, following a lull observed in the first four months of 2023, attacks by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) against STC forces and civilians increased in Shabwah and Abyan governorates in June. In response, STC forces significantly escalated counter-terrorism operations against AQAP in Shabwah and Abyan governorates in August. Meanwhile, although most of the frontlines have remained relatively calm, hostilities in Marib increased slightly in early October as SBA forces shelled Al-Mil IDP camp on the outskirts of Marib City on October 5, damaging several vehicles and buildings. Five days later, the As Suwayda IDP camp in Sirwah district of Marib was targeted by shelling. 

    Figure 1

    Number of conflict incidents, quarterly, Q2 (April-June) 2021 to Q3 (July-September) 2023 (yellow = battles; red = explosions/remote violence)
    Time series graph showing that levels conflict have been lower since a drop in the fourth quarter of 2022

    Source: ACLED

    Access constraints continued to be reported in disparate parts of the country in early October, particularly in frontline areas (Figure 2). Main roads remained closed in western parts of Marib and Shabwah. Similarly, main transportation routes in southeastern parts of Ibb bordering Al Dhale’e remained closed, restricting civilian movement and impacting internal trade since late 2018. Al Hudaydah also continued to experience access constraints internally and along its southern border with Taizz (which is split between IRG and SBA control). Within SBA-controlled areas in the north, roads remained closed along the Yemeni-Saudi border in Sa’ada, as well as in northeastern parts of Al Jawf and northeastern parts of Hajjah. Meanwhile, in the south, additional road closures have been reported in western parts of Abyan along the borders with Al Dhale’e and Al Bayda due to increased hostilities between AQAP and competing local factions.

    Figure 2

    Map of territorial control in Yemen as of October 2023
    Map showing most western areas of Yemen, with the exception of the southwest, under the control of Sana'a-based authorities; the remainder is under the control of the internationally-recognized government

    Source: Yemeni security firm

    According to monitoring data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a total 198 households (around 1,188 individuals) were newly displaced from monitored governorates (in IRG-controlled territory) in August. Of those newly displaced, 78 percent were displaced due to conflict, and 22 percent due to economic reasons. The greatest number of people were displaced from Marib (73 households), Al Hudaydah (70 households) and Taizz (30 households), most of whom fled to locations within the governorates of origin. The total number displaced in August was less than half of the number displaced in the prior month, when a surge in conflict in Taizz and Marib displaced hundreds of households, and less than a fifth of the number displaced in August of last year, when conflict had escalated mostly in Shabwah and Marib. The top needs reported by displaced households in August 2023 were shelter (37 percent), food (29 percent), and financial support (23 percent). Most newly displaced people are expected to be receiving food and WASH items through the IOM’s Rapid Response Mechanism.

    Economic warfare has continued between the IRG and SBA, with the latter maintaining the blockade of oil exports from IRG-controlled seaports of Aden and Al Mukalla under the threat of drone strikes on oil production and export facilities. Ongoing since October 2022, this blockade has deprived the IRG of its main source of revenue for more approximately one year. Additionally, the SBA continues to take measures to prevent importation of goods from IRG-controlled areas via land borders in an effort to strategically redirect imports through the SBA-controlled Red Sea ports of Al Hudaydah and As Salif. These efforts to redirect imports, ongoing since early 2023, have been somewhat successful with respect to some non-food commodities, worsening the IRG’s financial problems.

    Due to severe shortages of government revenue, the IRG is facing widening public budget gaps and deteriorating macroeconomic conditions. The Aden-based rial has continued to depreciate in recent months, averaging 1,438 YER/USD in September, representing an approximate 30 percent loss of value compared to the same time last year, according to data from FAO. Despite the declining revenue and depreciation of the currency, the Aden-based Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) has been able to continue holding weekly foreign currency auctions to support traders in the process of importation, owing to a deposit of 266 million USD from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) on August 3, 2023. The total amount of hard currency auctioned each week has remained set at 30 million USD. Meanwhile, demand from traders has fluctuated, reaching the auction ceiling twice in October 2023. 

    Meanwhile, the value of the Sana’a-based rial remained relatively stable in September at 525 YER/USD, after appreciating slightly by around 6 percent year-on-year, according to FAO. This is a continuation of a longer-term pattern of stability, attributable to the SBA’s fixed exchange rate system in which the SBA is the only legal buyer and seller of foreign currency. Meanwhile, the IRG, including CBY-Aden, follows a floating exchange rate system that lacks strict government regulation on currency trading in exchange shops. Given the controlled and comparatively limited availability of foreign currency in SBA areas, traders are incentivized to procure hard currency from IRG-controlled areas through the weekly public auctions, resulting in high demand for foreign currency in Aden and contributing to the depreciation of the Aden-based rial. At the same time, the SBA has been fairly successful in enforcing its long-standing ban on newly printed rial bank notes, helping to sustain the value of the local currency due to comparatively limited supply.

    Due to limited domestic food crop production—exacerbated in recent years by the impacts of conflict and climate change on local production systems—Yemen continues to remain highly dependent on imports for its staple food supply. Available data showsthat imported volumes of basic food commodities have been slightly higher, by 5 percent, in 2023 to date compared to the same time period of last year. From January 1 to September 30, 2023, traders imported nearly 3,870,108 MT of basic food commodities through all the country’s main sea and land ports, compared to 3,683,321 MT entered in 2022, according to data from the Sana’a-based Ministry of Trade and Information and the Aden-based General Authority for Standardization and Metrology. Of that amount, 69 percent was imported through the western Red Sea ports of Al Hudaydah and As Salif (in SBA-controlled territory), while 31 percent was imported through Aden and other sea and land ports in IRG-controlled territory. Despite the easing of restrictions on imports through Red Sea ports and efforts by the SBA to redirect imports through ports under their control, the amount of basic food commodities entering through IRG seaports increased by 10 percent compared to the same time in 2022, which saw disruptions in supply chains primarily due to the war in Ukraine.

    Basic food commodities remain generally available in major markets nationwide. However, high market prices continue to limit poor households’ ability to afford sufficient food. In Amanat al Asimah (Sana’a City), the reference market for SBA-controlled areas, the cost of the minimum food basket (MFB) averaged approximately 47,000 YER in September 2023 (Figure 3), similar to the same time last year but 34 percent higher than the five-year average. In Aden, the reference market for IRG-controlled areas, the price of the MFB averaged 129,000 YER by September 2023, similar to the same time last year but representing a significant increase of 257 percent compared to the five-year average. It should be noted that the cost of the MFB was higher than the same time last year in the IRG-controlled areas of Al Dhale’e, Abyan, and Hadramaut, by 14, 10, and 9 percent, respectively. Across Yemen, food prices vary compared to the reference markets, mainly determined by transportation costs driven by the length of routes from the main stock centers to the local markets. 

    Figure 3

    Price of the Minimum Food Basket (MFB) in Amanat Al Asimah (Sana’a City) and Aden reference markets, January to September 2023
    chart showing prices in Aden are more than double prices in Amanat al Asimah and have been increasing since May 2023

    Source: FEWS NET using FAO data

    Across markets in SBA areas, price controls are less strictly enforced than in Amanat al Asimah. Given this and more volatile supply and demand compared to Amanat al Asimah, food prices across markets in SBA areas can be more volatile. For example, staple wheat flour prices in Hajjah and Al Hudaydah markets were 8 and 15 percent higher, respectively, than prices in Amanat al Asimah in June, but 13 and 11 percent lower in July.  

    In Aden and other coastal areas, rice is another key staple cereal consumed by poor households, alongside wheat. Driven by rising global prices, domestic prices of non-basmati rice in Aden rose sharply by 17 percent, from 1,231 to 1,438 YER/kg, from August to September 2023, to reach levels 31 percent higher than in the same month of last year and 98 percent higher than the five-year average. Meanwhile, stocks of locally produced eggs typically decline seasonally during September and throughout the winter. Given this and seasonal increases in production costs, the price of a plate of 30 eggs in Aden increased sharply by 18 percent from August to September 2023.

    As of September 2023, official fuel prices in Aden averaged 60 to 70 percent higher than in Amanat al Asimah, due mainly to depreciation of the Aden-based rial, according to data from FAO.1 Meanwhile, trends in fuel prices have differed over the past year. In Amanat al Asimah, official petrol and diesel prices have generally declined steadily over the past year after peaking in August 2022, though prices have been stable in recent months from July to September 2023. As of September 2023, official prices of petrol and diesel in Amanat al Asimah were 20 and 26 percent lower, respectively, than at the same time last year, both averaging 450 YER/L. However, prices of petrol and diesel were still above the four-year average, by 12 and 4 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, in Aden, official petrol and diesel prices generally declined in late 2022 and then remained generally stable in the first half of 2023. However, fuel prices have started to increase rapidly again since July. As of September, official petrol prices in Aden averaged 1,134 YER/L, 5 percent higher than the same time last year and 108 percent higher than the four-year average. Official diesel prices in Aden in September, at 1,475 YER/L, were 6 and 100 percent higher than last year and the four-year average, respectively. 

    In areas under SBA control outside of Amanat al Asimah, fuel prices are generally fairly similar to prices in the Amanat al Asimah reference market. However, across governorates in IRG-controlled areas, fuel prices tend to be higher than in the Aden reference market due to transportation costs. This is largely because Aden is a port city where fuel is imported and then subsequently distributed to inland markets, while Amanat al Asimah is itself an inland market.

    More recently, between September and October, official prices of fuel—both petrol and diesel—increased further in multiple IRG-controlled governorates (Figure 4). On September 20, the Yemen Petroleum Company in Aden (YPC-Aden) increased petrol prices by more than 10 percent in areas under IRG control. The increase is attributed to depreciation of the Aden-based rial and increased global fuel prices. Although the YPC-Aden recently in late September attempted to decrease reliance on imports by sourcing petrol produced locally in Marib, threats by local tribes have caused the YPC-Aden to revert back to importing Premium-98 petrol.

    Figure 4

    Changes in official fuel prices in selected markets between September 1 and October 1, 2023
    fuel prices have increased over time in all selected markets except Amanat al Asimah where they have been stable

    Source: FEWS NET using data from key informants

    Foreign remittances provide at least some supplementary income to a notable share of the population in Yemen and provide an important source of hard currency to the country. In 2019, ACAPS estimated that the total value of remittances flowing into Yemen was somewhere between 3.8 and 8 billion USD, mostly from Saudi Arabia. Given limited income-earning opportunities due to the protracted impacts of the conflict on the national economy, demand for remittances has increased since the start of the conflict in 2015. However, in recent years, the rate of Yemeni migrant workers returning from the KSA has increased, exceeding 40,000 in 2023 to date, according to the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) (Figure 5). The main factors driving these returns include the rising cost of living in the KSA, increasingly strict work permit requirements, higher residency fees, and additional labor nationalization policies in the KSA.

    Figure 5

    Number of Yemeni migrant workers returning from Saudi Arabia, monthly, January to September 2022 and 2023
    chart showing that there have been more returns in 2023 than 2022, by almost 10,000 in the year to date

    Source: FEWS NET using IOM data

    In the first half of 2023, agricultural activities in the country generally benefited from the good rainfall received during the first rainy season (March to May) and an overall reduction in fuel prices compared to the same time period of the prior year. In the northern highlands, the irrigated fruit harvest—including citrus, pomegranate, and grapes—began in August, with near average production levels. However, farmers across Yemen continue to face challenges in accessing agricultural inputs, limiting overall production and profits compared to the pre-crisis period. Meanwhile, heavy seasonal rainfall in August caused flash floods in several parts of Yemen, including Hajjah—which was severely hit—as well as Marib, Taizz, and Ibb. In Hajjah, homes and farms were damaged, and several roads were rendered inaccessible, leaving villages isolated. Several deaths were recorded in Hajjah and neighboring governorates of Sa’ada and Al Jawf, while the flash floods in Marib caused extensive damage to shelters in IDP settlements. Overall, more than 80,000 households were affected by storms in 162 districts—nearly half of all districts—with varying degrees of severity. The thunderstorms and associated flash floods damaged homes, crops, water wells, and other critical infrastructure, in addition to causing loss of life and livelihoods for many civilians across the country. Moreover, 54 people died from lightning strikes in Hajjah alone. Raymah, Sana’a, Ibb, and Dhamar were also affected by floods in July. 

    However, during the second rainy season (July to October), rainfall started late and cumulative rainfall was below average across Yemen. As a result, the main harvest of rainfed cereals (September to November) is expected to be below last year’s levels and the five-year average, driven by reduced production in higher elevation areas where cereals are cultivated in terraces and are mostly rainfed. According to key informants, many farmers that cultivated sorghum in terraces were forced to harvest it for use as fodder due to crop failure following insufficient rain. Although the rainfed fodder harvests also declined during the summer due to late and below-average rainfall during the second rainy season, irrigated fodder cropping beginning in September is compensating for the deficit. Meanwhile, qat production is expected to be declining seasonally in October alongside the start of declining temperatures, reducing income-earning opportunities for laborers relying on local production. 

    On October 23 and 24, cyclone Tej severely impacted the governorates of Al Maharah, Socotra, and Hadramaut. Heavy rainfall and flooding brought by the cyclone damaged or destroyed houses and essential infrastructure including healthcare facilities and water networks, swept away households’ assets, and displaced thousands of families. Strong winds and rains also damaged sites for displaced people in Hadramaut. Overall, an estimated 7,100 households in Al Maharah, 2,682 households in Hadramaut, and 669 households in Socotra were affected. The most-affected areas were Ar Raydah Wa Qusaia’r district of Hadramaut, Hasswin and Al Ghaydah districts of Al Maharah, and both districts of Socotra. 

    Despite being below average, rainfall during Yemen’s second rainy season drove seasonal improvement in pasture conditions, with peak conditions measured by satellite data recorded around late September to early October. Improved availability of natural fodder—particularly in northwestern areas, lowland wadis, and highland areas in interior parts of Yemen—has likely increased many households’ ability to sufficiently feed their livestock amid high prices of mixed fodder in markets.

    Prices of sheep and goats generally increased from April/May to July due to high seasonal demand associated with the Ramadan (April), Eid al Fitr (May), and Eid al-Adha (July) holidays. Following this, prices decreased only slightly, by 3 to 5 percent, through September. On average at the national level, prices of sheep and goats in September 2023 were 9 to 10 percent higher than the same time last year, according to FAO.

    For millions of households in Yemen, humanitarian food assistance has become an important source of food and/or income over the years and, until relatively recently, was commonly the most important source of food for many poor and displaced households. However, funding shortages have resulted in several phases of scale-down in assistance provision—via reductions in distribution frequency and/or ration size per distribution—since January 2022. Prior to this, WFP (the largest organization in food distribution) was providing around 13 million beneficiary households (approximately 3.5 million beneficiaries in IRG areas and 9 million beneficiaries in SBA areas) with monthly distributions of rations equivalent to approximately 80 percent of a households’ one-month minimum caloric needs benchmarked to the standard food basket (1750 kcal). However, as of September 2023, WFP reports providing distributions to its 13 million beneficiaries approximately once every 45 days, with ration size per distribution equivalent to only 41 percent of the standard monthly food basket. As such, on average, beneficiary households have seen a decrease in the contribution of humanitarian food assistance from an effective 80 percent to an effective 27 percent of their total food needs since January 2022, though it should be noted that data from the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC) and information from key informants indicate that distribution frequency and ration sizes vary. Given eroded livelihoods, highly limited opportunities for income-earning, and high market prices, most poor households have likely been unable to fully compensate through other sources, while better-off beneficiary households have been forced to reduce expenditures on non-food items, in turn negatively impacting demand for goods and services provided by poor households. 

    High prevalence of acute malnutrition persists in Yemen, driven by both food and non-food factors including poor sanitation and health infrastructure, limited access to basic health services, and diseases. According to WHO nutrition surveillance at 205 sentinel sites across 21 governorates, the proportion of screened children under five who were diagnosed with acute malnutrition has been generally increasing since April (Figure 6), largely in accordance with expectations based on typical seasonal trends. As of August 2023, the proportion of screened children under five who were diagnosed with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and severe acute malnutrition (SAM), as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), stood at 21 percent and 7 percent, respectively. However, it is worth noting that screening data is not representative and trends may be influenced by potential changes in the locations of sites and the number of people seeking treatment. According to the nutrition cluster, nearly 215,000 children under five were admitted for treatment of SAM from January to August 2023, similar to the nearly 218,000 cases recorded in the same period of the previous year. 

    Figure 6

    Proportion of screened children under five diagnosed with moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and severe acute malnutrition (SAM) at WHO surveillance sites, February to August 2023
    line graph showing MAM and SAM cases have been increasing since April 2023

    Source: FEWS NET using WHO nutrition surveillance data

    Current Food Security Outcomes 

    Across Yemen, reduced provision of humanitarian assistance—now expected to be providing most beneficiary households with less than one third of their total minimum food requirements—is expected to be increasing the difficulty that millions of poor households were already facing in meeting their basic needs. Poor households have highly limited ability to cope or expand income-earning given the impacts of years of protracted conflict on the economy, business environment, and livelihoods. Assistance cuts have also reduced community sharing practices and driven declining consumer spending among relatively better-off beneficiaries, which is in turn negatively impacting the availability of income-earning opportunities for poor households due to declining demand for goods and services.

    Among rural households in highland areas, the nearly concluded harvest of cereals and the ongoing harvest of fruits (including pomegranates) is providing income-earning opportunities for millions of daily wage earners throughout the production and marketing chains. This has improved poor households’ food access, partially compensating for reductions in emergency humanitarian food assistance. However, in lowland areas, the availability of income-earning opportunities remains limited prior to the start of the cereal harvest and vegetable cultivation season in November.  

    Across both rural and urban areas controlled by the IRG, continuous economic deterioration is further limiting business and income-earning opportunities and is also driving rising food and fuel prices due to depreciation of the currency. Though business activity improved slightly in SBA areas due to the reduction in conflict since the truce, the reductions in humanitarian assistance are now impacting consumer spending, with the potential to undermine those gains. Overall, opportunities for income-earning remain severely limited across Yemen, though with IRG areas worst affected. 

    Given the limited ability of most households to expand income-earning and already highly eroded coping capacity, many poor households are likely increasingly resorting to reducing the quantity and frequency of meals and/or engaging in severe negative coping strategies—such as engaging in dangerous work—indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Given recent economic trends and seasonal patterns, the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes has likely increased in recent months in both urban and rural lowland areas within IRG-controlled territory, as well as in rural lowland areas within SBA-controlled territory. Overall, millions of poor households are expected to be facing food consumption gaps, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes likely widespread at the area level. Particular concern exists for poor households whose primary source of food and income was previously humanitarian food assistance and who have overall limited and non-diversified income sources. High concern also exists for poor and displaced households in areas worst-affected by the recent cyclone (including Socotra, Al Maharah, and Hadhramaut). In these areas, households are likely still facing the impacts of reduced income-earning and above-average expenditure requirements as they recover from damage to homes and property.


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    main harvest of cereals is Oct-Dec; spring harvest of cereals is mid-Feb to May; rainy seasons are March-May and July-Sept

    Source:

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from October 2023 to May 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Public-facing peace talks between the SBA leaders and Saudi officials are likely to remain on hold given the recent slight re-escalation of conflict (drone attacks and ground fighting) by SBA forces and the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel in the Middle East. 

    • Ground fighting is expected to remain near currently observed levels (depressed compared to the pre-truce period) and concentrated in the main frontline areas of Taizz, Marib, Al Jawf, and Al Dhale’e. Local and sporadic escalations in fighting are expected, as is typical, with the SBA’s focus rotating between different portions of the front lines in Taizz, Marib, Al Jawf, and Al Dhale’e. It is unlikely that military engagements will lead to shifts in territorial control. 

    • Given recent re-escalation and the likelihood that AQAP will seek to opportunistically exploit the increasing fragmentation within the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) and STC, it is likely that attacks by AQAP against STC forces will increase through December 2023.

    • Bureaucratic requirements imposed by authorities at checkpoints between IRG and SBA areas are expected to remain in place, affecting many key trade routes. Given the expectation of continued ground fighting, access restrictions in frontline areas are likely to persist. These challenges will continue straining the business environment and driving high transportation costs for traders. 

    • Given recent trends and expectations for stalled peace talks, SBA authorities are expected to continue to block oil exports from IRG-controlled seaports.

    • SBA and IRG authorities are expected to continue competing to attract imports through seaports in areas under their control. As part of these efforts, the SBA is expected to continue to effectively block the internal trade of food and locally produced non-food commodities from IRG to SBA areas via land borders through the imposition of additional and prohibitive customs taxes on goods coming from IRG areas.

    • Given expectations for the continued blockade of oil exports, the IRG’s inflows of revenue and foreign exchange are likely to remain similar to current reduced levels and significantly below pre-crisis levels. Significant shortages of government revenue in IRG-controlled areas are expected to continue contributing to gaps in the public budget and worsening economic conditions in IRG-controlled areas.

    • Given expectations for continued significantly reduced revenue inflows, macroeconomic conditions in IRG-controlled areas are expected to continue to deteriorate. The Aden-based rial is expected to continue to depreciate overall, though with volatility expected, and is expected to reach a rate of 1,500 YER/USD or more by December 2023 and 1,600 YER/USD or more by May 2024. 

    • The deposit of 1 billion Saudi riyal (266 million USD) provided by the KSA to the Aden-based CBY in August (as the first tranche of around 1.2 billion USD of pledged financial support to the Yemeni economy and public budget) is likely to provide sufficient support to sustain weekly foreign currency auctions through at least January 2024. Following this, it is anticipated that, as additional need arises, the KSA will provide the second tranche of pledged financial support between February and May 2024. However, notable uncertainty exists given past trends of delays, and disruptions to the foreign currency auction mechanism could arise during this time if additional financial support is not received.

    • Given tighter controls over monetary policy and the exchange market, the value of the Sana’a-based rial is expected to remain generally stable.

    • Given expectations for seasonally reduced demand for electricity during the upcoming winter period, the severity of power outages is likely to decrease in IRG areas until around May, when the onset of summer is expected to again increase demand for electricity. 

    • Overall, food and fuel imports are expected to remain close to current levels, with typical month-to-month volatility anticipated. However, the continued pressure that SBA authorities is exerting on traders is likely to increase the share of some non-food commodities that enter through SBA-controlled ports. Additionally, increased shipping insurance costs stemming from the regional conflict in the Middle East will likely result in higher importation costs for Yemeni traders due to the heightened risk of drone and missile strikes and/or seizures.

    • Fuel prices are generally expected to increase (particularly in IRG-controlled areas), driven by global fuel price increases (following the Russian ban of diesel exports and OPEC production cuts), higher importation costs, and depreciation of the currency in IRG areas. However, significant uncertainty exists in the trajectory of global fuel prices. 

    • In IRG areas, prices of most imported staple foods (including wheat flour) are expected to increase due to depreciation of the local currency, higher importation costs, rising fuel prices, and the prohibitive cost of doing business due to frequent power outages and illegal taxes. 

    • In SBA areas, prices of most imported staple foods (including wheat flour) are expected to remain generally stable due to continued price caps and stability of the local currency.

    • Across the country, prices of rice (imported) are expected to increase in line with rising global prices following India’s export ban. India accounts for nearly half of all the rice imported into Yemen.

    • Due to persistent government revenue shortages, payment of pensions and civil servant salaries will likely remain intermittent or absent, particularly for the military sector, and with SBA areas worst affected. Given that salaries have not been adjusted for inflation, real income will remain significantly below pre-conflict levels.

    • Prices of fertilizer are expected to remain high across Yemen and may increase further during the projection period due to the potential for supply shortages resulting from the country’s heavy reliance on fertilizer imports from Ukraine and Russia amid these countries’ recent export bans on nitrogenous fertilizer (which is in high demand in local Yemeni markets). Yemeni traders are facing difficulty in securing sufficient fertilizer from alternative sources due to newly imposed trade restrictions, including fertilizer export bans by Russia, China, and Kyrgyzstan. 

    • Given the likely continuation of funding shortfalls, the provision of humanitarian food assistance is expected to remain similar to current reduced levels.

    • According to international forecasts, cumulative rainfall in Yemen’s March to May 2024 first rainy season is most likely to be average, though notable uncertainty exists given the long lead time of the forecast.

    • According to international forecasts and historical trends, above-average temperatures are most likely across most of the country through at least May 2024.

    • The risk of cyclone strikes and associated flooding for Socotra and the southern Gulf of Aden coast is highest from mid-April to mid-June and from October to December. In the peak periods from October to December 2023 and from mid-April to May, the risk of cyclone strikes will likely be above average due to forecast above-average sea surface temperatures in the Arabian Sea.

    • Overall, cereal crop production is expected to be slightly less than last year given below-average rainfall during the second rainy season. Production will be significantly below pre-crisis (February 2015) levels due to the impacts of protracted conflict and increasing input prices. 

    • Harvesting of qat is expected year-round in higher-elevation areas. Qat production is expected to be near average given typical prioritization of this cash crop for production inputs.

    • Vegetation and pasture conditions are expected to seasonally decline through February/March 2024 during the dry period, and then improve again through May during the first rainy season. Given expectations for above-average temperatures, deterioration during the dry period is likely to be faster than normal. Overall, vegetation conditions are likely to remain mixed compared to the average.

    • Milk from livestock is expected to remain seasonally available during the October to December period and is expected to then be available again around March. However, food and income from livestock production is expected to remain below pre-crisis levels due to declining herd sizes.

    • Food and income from fishing will be at seasonally high levels throughout the projection period but will remain below pre-crisis levels due to above-average fuel prices, conflict-related access constraints, and lack of cold chain infrastructure.

    • Income from foreign remittances is likely to remain near current reduced levels, given the continued flow of Yemeni migrant workers returning from Saudi Arabia.

    • In lowland areas (coastal and inland), the availability of agricultural and non-agricultural labor is expected to seasonally increase around late November/early December with the start of the agricultural season and remain at seasonally high levels throughout the projection period. In highland areas, availability of labor is expected to seasonally increase through late 2023 with the citrus harvest, decrease during the agricultural off-season through February/March, and then increase again with the onset of land preparation and planting activities for cereals and vegetables. Availability of labor is expected to remain below pre-crisis levels overall. Though wages are expected to increase due to inflation, the real value of income from labor is expected to remain stable and below average.

    Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes

    In the October 2023 to January2024 period, rural households across the country will benefit from a seasonal increase in food and income from agricultural labor opportunities and own crop production associated with the country’s main cereal harvest (September to mid-November in the highlands and November to January in the lowlands). However, the contribution of crop production to households’ total food needs will be limited and stocks are expected to last for even less than typical two months in highland areas due to reduced crop production levels. As such, poor households will remain highly dependent on markets for most of their food, with above-average fuel and food prices expected to continue to strain households’ limited resources. In addition, a typical seasonal increase in respiratory illnesses and fever during winter is likely to further increase households’ essential expenditure requirements. Overall, given overall highly limited income-earning opportunities, reduced humanitarian assistance, and already eroded coping capacity, millions of poor households will remain unable to meet their basic food needs during this period. Households in IRG-controlled areas are expected to be worst-affected given expectations for economic deterioration and rising food and fuel prices, with additional households likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. However, in rural areas under SBA control, a slight decline in the number of households facing food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse is expected overall. At the governorate level, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to persist across most of the country, with worst-affected households likely to face wide consumption gaps or engage in severe coping indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes.

    In the February to May 2024 period, rural households are expected to have largely exhausted food stocks from the main cereal harvest. Additionally, the January to March period is largely an agricultural off-season in highland areas, when access to income from agricultural labor will decline before increasing again in April and May. Meanwhile, in the lowlands, the main harvest of fruits (particularly of mangoes) as well as cereal and vegetable cultivation activities are expected to provide households with some seasonal income from crop sales and daily wage labor throughout the projection period. In both rural and urban areas under IRG control, further economic deterioration and rising prices are expected to continue to drive an increase in the number of households facing food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to remain widespread at the governorate level, with worst-affected households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    SBA-controlled areasHumanitarian food assistance is further reduced in SBA-controlled areasFurther reductions in the provision of humanitarian food assistance would increase the already high share of beneficiary households’ total food needs that they would need to meet through market purchases. However, millions of poor households are already expected to be unable to fully compensate for recent ration reductions. Sharing practices would likely be further reduced. Additionally, relatively better-off beneficiary households would likely further reduce expenditures, reducing demand for goods and services provided by poor households to earn income and further constraining poor households’ ability to expand income-earning. As such, more households would be expected to face food consumption gaps or widening food consumption gaps characteristic of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would be likely for those who previously (prior to the cuts) considered humanitarian assistance as their main source of food and/or income.
    National, with greatest impacts in IRG-controlled areasThe second tranche of the KSA’s pledged financial support to the Aben-based CBY is not received in the February to May 2024 periodIf the second tranche of support is not received, the CBY-Aden would likely struggle to provide the hard currency required to support public currency auctions. The amount of hard currency available to traders through this mechanism would likely decrease, impacting large traders in both IRG and SBA areas. While traders would be expected to procure sufficient currency to sustain current import levels from alternative sources, the currency would likely be more expensive, increasing the cost of importation. Meanwhile, the Aden-based rial would be expected to depreciate rapidly and would likely reach or exceed levels as high as 1,700 YER/USD, driving more rapidly increasing prices of food and non-food commodities in IRG-controlled areas. In SBA-controlled areas, a reduction in import levels would remain possible due to limited access to the hard currency required by traders. Given rising prices, a greater-than-anticipated number of households would likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, particularly in IRG-controlled areas.
    IRG-controlled areasCivil servant salary payments are further disrupted, with payments received only every 3-4 months (as was the case in 2020)Given the limited ability of households to expand other income-earning opportunities to compensate alongside expectations for rising food prices, this would further constrain access to food for many poor households. An increase in the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes would be likely, with area-level deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) possible in areas where government salaries are the primary or only sources of income for a significant share of households.

    Area of Concern: Amran Governorate

    Current Situation

    Amran governorate is located in northwestern Yemen (Figure 7), fully within SBA-controlled territory. The city of Amran is strategically situated 42 kilometers north of Amanat al Asimah, with an open trade route linking them. Amran is divided into 20 administrative districts, with a total population of (1,264,754) including the internally displaced, according to the 2023 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Yemen. This represents around five percent of the total population residing within SBA-controlled areas. In Amran, the average household size of 7-9 members is among the highest in Yemen. The illiteracy rate is more than 42 percent, with female-headed households disproportionately affected, according to the key informants. 

    Figure 7

    Reference map for Amran governorate
    Map showing location Amran governorate, landlocked in northwestern Yemen

    Source: FEWS NET

    According to the results of the Food Security and Livelihoods Assessment conducted in 2020, humanitarian assistance was reported as the primary source of income for 36 percent of households, followed by planting/selling of cash crops (qat), agricultural products, and/or livestock (16 percent), and wage labor (15 percent). Agriculture is the most important economic activity in the governorate, and the main crops produced are cereals and vegetables. Livestock breeding is also a major economic activity for the better-off households, while poorer households may own a few small animals. Since the outbreak of the war, agricultural production levels have been declining due to above-average fuel prices, resulting in increased production costs and reduced income for farmers. 

    Though levels of active conflict are relatively low in Amran, tensions between SBA forces and local tribes persist. For example, in August 2023, fighting between SBA leaders and the tribes of Jabal Iyal Yazid district re-escalated over land disputes. In addition to local tensions and conflict, Amran is also impacted by the ongoing conflict in neighboring Hajjah and Sa’ada governorates through the influx of IDPs. 

    Some of the recurrent shocks prevalent in the governorate include floods, frosts, and crop/animal diseases. As an immediate response to the shocks in case of food or income deficits, households will rely on a range of coping strategies. Poor households may sell additional livestock, increase local and migrant labor, and reduce the number of meals consumed in a day. Better‐off households will sell livestock and may also tap into their grain reserves or reduce their expenditures on non‐essential items. However, years of conflict in Yemen and economic decline both nationally in Amran have eroded households’ asset bases and coping capacity, rendering them more vulnerable to shocks. 

    Based on the topographic nature of Amran, most districts are considered hard to reach due to rough terrain; mainly Swayr, Maswar, Shaharah, Almadan, Shahara, Harf Sufian, Dhibin, and Thula. According to FAO, there are only six main markets where all major food commodities are commonly available, two of which are in Amran city. This leaves the remaining four markets overstretched in terms of their capacity to serve the local population across most districts. While agriculture is the dominant economic activity, crop production contributes only a small portion of households’ total annual food requirements, rendering households heavily reliant on markets to secure their basic food needs. This is attributed to the prevalence of qat plantations, low land ownership rate, and poor utilization of agriculture inputs, according to key informants.

    Currently in Amran, the ongoing main harvest of cereals is slightly improving access to food and income from crop production and agricultural labor. However, similar to other highland areas, below-average rainfall during the July to October second rainy season has reportedly resulted in a decline in crop production compared to last year. 

    According to key informants, the most common difficulties faced by households in Amran from January to September 2023 were unemployment/declining wages, above-average food prices, and high living and health expenses. This suggests that most poor households rely heavily on income-earning to meet their food needs from markets rather than from agricultural production or other sources.

    In Amran, retail prices of staple foods are influenced by global food price trends, transportation costs determined by fuel prices, and fluctuations in local supply and demand. However, the stable exchange rate and price caps set by the SBA help moderate price fluctuations, particularly in urban areas of Amran and surrounding SBA areas where markets are more tightly controlled by local authorities. After generally declining over the past year, as of September 2023, official prices of diesel and petrol were 32 percent and 25 percent lower than the same time last year, according to data from FAO. However, despite remaining stable from August to September, the cost of the MFB in September 2023 was 21 percent higher than the same time last year and 33 percent higher than the four-year average, likely at least partially driven by rising demand due to reductions in humanitarian food assistance in the past year.

    Income from daily wage labor is a primary source of income for many poor households. While wage rates for casual (unskilled) laborers have remained generally stable over the past year, wage rates for agricultural laborers have declined. According to data from FAO, wage rates for agricultural laborers in September 2023 were 23 percent lower than at the same time last year. Given this and rising food prices, purchasing power for laborers has declined, with agricultural laborers worst affected. As of September 2023, purchasing power as measured by the terms of trade (ToT) indicator—a ratio between labor wage rates and the cost of the MFB—was 20 percent lower than the same time last year for casual laborers, and a full 36 percent lower for agricultural labors.

    The regular provision of in-kind humanitarian food assistance has typically been an important source of food for poor households in Amran. However, as in the rest of the country, beneficiaries in Amran have been impacted by the widespread assistance reductions since January 2022, with rations per distribution now expected to be equivalent to 50 percent or less of a households’ minimum energy needs for one month. According to key informants, beneficiaries in Amran are being reached with assistance only once every eight weeks. According to data from the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC), only 17 percent of the total population was reached with humanitarian food assistance monthly, on average in the June to August period. This compares to an average of 38 percent of the total population reached with assistance monthly on average in 2021. In August, only 12,534 individuals were assisted, of whom 3,708 were new IDPs. 

    After years of reduced opportunities for income-earning and rising prices, many poor households have largely exhausted their assets and remaining coping capacity. Reductions in humanitarian assistance over the past year have increased households’ already high reliance on market purchases for food. However, at the same time, declining purchasing power due to rising food prices as well as declining wage rates for agricultural laborers are limiting households’ ability to increase market purchases to compensate. As such, worst-affected poor households are likely being forced to resort to severe coping strategies such as engaging in high-risk work by immigrating to the KSA illegally or joining the military. Many poor households are expected to be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, with worst-affected households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) especially during the time immediately prior to a food assistance distribution

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • Political tensions and conflicts between SBA forces and local tribes are anticipated to continue near current levels.

    • Retail prices of staple foods are expected to remain generally stable at levels higher than the same period of 2022/23, driven by steady demand for imported wheat in Amran and surrounding SBA-controlled areas.

    • Income-earning from agricultural wage labor is expected to remain near current levels during the remainder of the main cereal harvest season and main fruit (citrus) harvest season through December. During the January to March agricultural off-season, the availability of agricultural labor opportunities will likely decline before slightly increasing again in April and May with the beginning of the planting season for cereals and vegetables. 

    • The provision of humanitarian food assistance is expected to continue at the current level, with beneficiary households being reached with a food basket equal to 41 percent or less of one month’s minimum energy requirements every eight weeks.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes 

    From October to December, rural households will benefit from some seasonal food and income associated with the cereal and citrus harvests. However, dependence on markets will remain atypically high amid reduced humanitarian assistance provision, and available income-earning opportunities will not be sufficient for poor households to meet their needs given above-average market prices of basic food commodities. Many poor and landless households dependent on agricultural wage labor will likely continue to face food consumption gaps, particularly in between assistance distributions. Overall, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist at the governorate level.

    By January, households will have exhausted stocks from the below-average cereal harvest, and availability of income-earning opportunities will decline during the beginning of the agricultural off-season, with only qat being planted in some areas. Given highly eroded coping capacity, additional poor households will likely face food consumption gaps or widening food consumption gaps characteristic of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes during this time, with improvement in food consumption only expected with the start of the Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr period in mid-March given typical seasonal zakat (gifts) from wealthier households. As such, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes anticipated during the agricultural off-season from January to March are expected to improve to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in April and May. 

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Yemen Food Security Outlook October 2023 - May 2024: Main cereal harvest to temporarily boost rural households’ food consumption, 2023.

    1

    Official fuel prices recorded by FAO are an average of official prices set by government and commercial market prices. However, official and commercial prices are currently similar, especially for petrol.

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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