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335247

Yemeni farmers turn to planting wheat as prices bite

SANAA, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Some Yemeni farmers have turned to planting their own wheat as global disruptions dent imports and send prices soaring in Yemen where a seven-year conflict has pushed people deeper into poverty and left millions hungry.

Farmer Khaled Maasar said most Yemenis cannot afford foreign wheat with prices rising to some 20,000 riyals, equivalent to $33. Food price inflation had already doubled in just two years in some part of the country.

"If the farmer works in the field and this gets him an income - then this is a great blessing. This is what is pushing people back to farming wheat," he said.

The conflict in Yemen that began in 2014 and divided the country between the Houthi-led movement and the Saudi-backed government has wrecked the economy and basic infrastructure.

In the background, Yemeni women knelt to gather wheat in fields in Hamedan district.

"As a result of the Ukrainian crisis, people who never planted crops before have now started to cultivate (wheat) in their lands," said farmer Abdo Mohsn Sinan. "Now people are making use of their lands, which is better than relying on imports."

Large-scale local production of wheat in Yemen is challenging as irrigation water is scarce, and infrastructure to make use of rainfall is lacking.

In 2021, Yemen produced around 250,000 tonnes of wheat. The government launched a project to add acres for wheat planting.

"The Ministry of Agriculture must support farmers with seeds and grains, as well as with wells and dams," said Saleh Hababi, who works as a vendor in the Houthi-held capital, Sanaa.

"This will increase local output and we won’t need to rely on imports at all." (Reporting by Yemen team; Writing by Aya Nader; Editing by Josie Kao)

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