Shortage of gas, increase in anger

8 Nov
Kids waiting with their parents for their turn to get a cooking gas cylinder in Sana’a. Before Eid vacations and Ramadan, the prices of cylinders increase as some distributers have a monopoly on them.

Malak ShaherPublished:02-11-2011

SANA’A. Nov. 2 — The price of cooking gas has increased twofold in Sana’a, leaving thousands of families wondering how they will cook during the upcoming Eid vacation.

The increase in price for cooking gas cylinders varies from one governorate to another. In Sana’a, the price of a cylinder of increased from YR 1,600 to YR 3,400, or USD 15. In Hodeida governorate, home to the poorest segment of Yemen’s population, the price of one cylinder is YR 2,500, or USD 10.

“We can no more afford the price of cooking gas,  which increased two days ago and is now YR 2,500,” said Um Khaled Mohammad, mother of five children, of Hodeida.

She said that gas cylinders are available but that she prefers to use wood to prepare meals rather than face the “very expensive” price that she cannot pay.

Providing that the sellers of cooking gas cylinders are not cheating their customers, a typical cylinder for a family of five usually lasts 20 days.

Mazen Hassan of Sana’a said that he had tried “to play smart” and bought gas cylinders from  peddlers, as they were cheaper than in the gas market in Sana’a’s Old City. He discovered later that the cylinders bought from peddlers were only half full.

The cylinder Mazen bought from a peddler lasted for only a week. This week, according to Mazen, the price for a single cylinder of gas increased to YR 4,000, or USD 17.

Since the uprising in Yemen started in February, the price of the gas cylinder increased from USD 4 to be sometimes USD 20. The average Yemeni earns a salary of nearly USD 160, with the value of the Yemeni riyal constantly decreasing.

Meanwhile, prices for cooking gas in Aden have not increased, according to Anis Mansoor, a journalist from Aden. He added that cylinders of gas bought from stores cost YR 1,600, as opposed to YR 1,600 when purchased from peddlers.

Before the uprising in Yemen started in February, Yemen usually witnessed gas shortages before Ramadan or the two Eids, Islamic occasions, gas distributors have a monopoly on gas due to the rise in demand on gas on such occasions. 

The shortage of gas cylinders can be ascribed to problems that occur on the Marib-Sana’a  road, when the gas is brought from Marib, and is due to a monopoly, according to Mohammad Al-Absi, a Yemeni activist.

He said that gas distributors sometimes ‘hold’ the cylinders during “important occasions, as the demand for gas is then at a climax.”

“Yemeni citizens consume more than 20,000 barrels daily, according to SAFER, Yemen’s national oil company,” said Al-Absi. 

Despite the fact that, after Qatar, it produces the second largest amount of natural gas in the Arab world, Yemen’s government paid for six cooking gas shipments from Oman. One barrel went for USD 32, according to Al-Absi.

Al-Absi, who also serves as the head of a committee combating the Yemeni government – Liquid Natural Gas agreement, said that the nearly 15,000 barrels of gas goes towards Total and Liquid Natural Gas, two French gas companies, every day.

He said that the agreement was made in 2005, and that the amount of 13,000 barrels was allocated for domestic use.

He said that the International Trade Court had canceled the agreement as a result of its being “unjust” to Yemeni citizens. The agreement, however, remains in place to this day.


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