Signs of anxiety were clear on Mohammed Abdullah's face when he talked about price increases for consumer goods in Yemen.
Abdullah, 27, who works as a construction supervisor for a real estate company, said he has an "intense fear that this crisis might continue", in light of a slowdown in food imports which was accompanied by a work stoppage in his company.
"This is disastrous for me," he said.
Yemenis are nervous because of the political crisis facing the country, which pushed them to buy large quantities of consumer goods and store them away. As a result, demand increased and some traders sought to exploit the situation by raising their prices.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade announced mid-April that the availability of goods in Yemen is stable, and that its offices in Sanaa and elsewhere are monitoring the markets in co-ordination with local authorities, chambers of commerce and the private sector.
At the beginning of April, the ministry agreed with the private sector to make consumer goods readily available, prevent monopoly control, and ensure a stable supply during the current situation.
Yemen imports most of its basic goods and food supplies, relying upon imports for more than 85% of its supply.
Hasan al-Kabous, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Sanaa, said fear spread among people from the first days of the political crisis. The political instability triggered a wave of shopping and increased demand to secure food.
He added, "The crisis has entered its third month, and the commercial sector is suffering from stagnation because of a slowdown in demand. When the crisis began, people bought more than they needed."
Al-Kabous said traders continue to carry a large stock of consumer goods, adding that traders are importing more than they need. He justified the increase in prices, which he considered to be slight, by noting the increase in the dollar's value.
Two weeks ago, Hisham Sharaf, the minister of trade and industry for the caretaker government, toured several markets in Sanaa and said the reserve stock of food available with merchants is sufficient for six months. The quantities of imports continue to arrive, and they will cover the needs for another six months.
Hasan Farhan, a professor of economics at Sanaa University, said the supply situation is 80% stable. He warned that the outcome could change if the crisis continues for a longer period.
"The situation will be disastrous if imports stop and commercial banks refuse to open letters of credit that will cover imports because of the scarcity of the dollar supply and its high price in addition to the Yemeni Central Bank’s position not to pump more foreign currency in the market," he said.
Prices for goods such as sugar, wheat and rice have increased at varying rates. Fadel Mansour, chairman of the Consumer Protection Association, said overall prices increased by 20%.
Mansour told Al-Shorfa, "The situation puts the consumer at risk as long as the crisis continues and the economic wheel stops which is visible given the halt in construction and investment projects and the termination of many employees who were working in the private sector."
He said the current situation will "lead to a decline in purchasing power and an increase in the poverty rate, especially food poverty".
Mansour said the ministry should tighten control of the markets in light of the monopolies and the manipulation of prices by traders. He said, "Things will get much worse if the crisis continues."
Ahmed al-Numeiri, a wholesale trader in Sanaa, said, "We are importers. We are affected by regional and international price changes for goods. We are not producers who can raise and lower prices which are subject to the exchange rate of the Yemeni riyal against the U.S. dollar."