Abyan province in Yemen recorded the highest inflation rate for consumer goods because of the deteriorating security situation and the lack of government price controls, a recent study revealed.
The study, which was conducted by the Studies and Economic Media Centre and released in late October, noted that prices for some basic food increased 166% in Abyan.
Volunteer researchers surveyed 35 commodities in Sanaa, Amran, Taiz, Hodeidah, Abyan and Lahj provinces. They cited a lack of market supervision by institutions such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry and difficulty in transporting goods between provinces and within cities as the primary reasons for the spike in prices.
Mustafa Nasr, president of the centre, told Al-Shorfa the study involved 1,000 families from the directorates of Loder, Mahfad, and Jaishan in Abyan province and the city of Shakra in the directorate of Khanfar. The study excluded Jaar and Zinjibar because of armed confrontations occurring between government forces and al-Qaeda and the lack of state authority locally.
The price of flour in Abyan is 50% higher than in Sanaa. The average price of a 25 kg bag of flour is 5,000 riyals ($23) in Abyan compared with 3,200 riyals ($14.50) in Sanaa. Prices for mineral water were highest in Abyan, where they are sold for 90 riyals ($0.41) compared to 70 riyals ($0.32) in Taiz, Hodeidah, and Sanaa.
The study reported a wide divergence in prices between provinces, up to 166% for the price of rice, 50% for wheat, 48% for sugar, 25% for milk and tea, 33% for legumes, 18% for oil, 8% for milk for children, and 11% for cheese.
"The prices vary greatly between dealers in the same directorate in Abyan, and that reflects the lack of security, which, along with the difficulty of transporting goods has led to rising prices and has a negative impact on consumer purchasing power because consumers are cutting back on many of their needs," Nasr said.
"Abyan citizens are living under conditions that are much more difficult than those experienced by their counterparts in other provinces," he said. "Al-Qaeda and its terrorist elements created this state of dysfunction in consequence of their quest to seize control of the entire province, the armed confrontations that led to the withdrawal of state agencies, and the state of security and administrative chaos."
Ahmed al-Rahwi, deputy governor of Abyan province, told Al-Shorfa the increase in prices in Abyan is expected and normal considering the circumstances.
"The province is at war with al-Qaeda in Jaar, Zinjibar, and other directorates where a tribal uprising took place to prevent the al-Qaeda organization from spreading to their areas and to support tribes in regions that have fallen under al-Qaeda's control," he said.
"The absence of state authority through its various ministries is what created the imbalance and allowed people to apply their own laws and impose their own rules, which extended to trading activities and price increases, especially lack of security that followed the bombing of the ammunition factory and the seizure of Jaar in late March."
Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaeda-affiliate, seized control of Jaar in Abyan province in March and declared it an Islamic emirate. Thousands of families fled to neighbouring areas after clashes erupted between Yemeni security forces and al-Qaeda elements to liberate the city.
Sheikh Nasrallah al-Shaabi of Abyan province told Al-Shorfa the security situation and armed confrontations with al-Qaeda forced people to seek refuge for themselves and their children before they could focus on securing food and other necessities.
"The absence of state authority and its entanglement in the political crisis provided merchants and monopolists an opportunity to exploit the political situation, raise prices, and monopolise the sale of products," he said.