DUBAI Feb 14 The armed Houthi movement that
controls much of Yemen is setting a cap on imports and
temporarily banning traders from buying dollars in an attempt to
stop the decline of the local rial currency, according to a
document seen by Reuters.
The moves could aggravate a food crisis in the Arab country,
already ravaged by war, hunger and disease.
The document was issued after a meeting on Monday in the
capital Sanaa between the Houthis' deputy prime minister for
economic affairs, Hussein Maqbooli, and representatives of
banks, money changers and importers of wheat, flour, and fuel.
It said the trade ministry had been asked to set a ceiling
on imports and to prepare a list of essential goods needed for
the whole of 2017, suggesting a move to ration imports to cope
with the financial crisis.
The meeting agreed that importers of wheat, flour, fuel
products, telecommunications equipment and tobacco will "stop
buying dollars for 30 days, and to oblige money changers not to
sell or speculate", according to the document.
Nearly two years of war between a Saudi-led Arab coalition
and the Houthi movement, which is aligned to Riyadh's arch-rival
Iran, has left four-fifths of the population in need of aid.
The war has split the country between two power centres: the
southern city of Aden, controlled by the internationally
recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and
the Houthi-run capital Sanaa. Both have suffered from the
The Sanaa meeting came about following a sharp drop in the
value of the rial, which was trading at 385 to the dollar in
Aden and up to 330 in Sanaa. It had been around 310 for most of
the past three months.
Officials from the Houthi group could not immediately be
reached for comment.
Money changers in Aden, worried by instability and
speculation in the market, also suspended trading in foreign
currency on Tuesday over the sharp drop in the value of the
rial, which some said had increased since Hadi's government
pumped some 200 billion rials printed in Russia into the market
Last week, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said
Yemen's estimated supplies of wheat would run out at the end of
The financial situation has became more chaotic since Hadi's
government decided to move the central bank from Sanaa to Aden
and name a new governor. The Houthis rejected the move, leaving
two rival central banks operating in the country.
The confusion has pushed many Yemenis toward destitution
after months of unpaid salaries.
Officials said that the central bank under the control of
Hadi's government was due to meet money changers in Aden to
discuss ways to stabilise the rial.
(Reporting by Mohammed Mukhashaf, Writing by Sami Aboudi;
Editing by Mark Trevelyan)