Yemen’s ruinous civil war has taken its toll on one of the impoverished country’s prized exports — its coveted honey.
Thick, rich and as dense as liquid gold, Yemen’s honey has traditionally been sought after in the oil-rich Gulf, where it is seen as a delicious and natural way to boost one’s immune system.
The best of Yemen’s honey, known as Sidr, comes from the Hadramawt region in the southeast, which has been gripped by unrest for years.
An al-Qaida affiliate has long roamed the area, and for the last two and a half years, Yemen has been mired in a war pitting Shiite rebels and allied army units against the internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition.
The war has killed over 10,000 civilians, displaced about 3 million people, and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. An outbreak of cholera has killed 2,000 people and infected some 500,000, according to the UN’s World Health Organization.
The beekeeping industry has meanwhile suffered a 70 percent drop in production as it has been cut off from lucrative export markets. Warring parties have carved up the interior of the country, and the coalition has blocked all of Yemen’s air and seaports.
Shipping costs have surged since the war began, and only a trickle of Yemen’s honey has flowed through overland crossings to Saudi Arabia, the biggest importer.
The honey sells for twice as much abroad, so the drop in exports has hit producers hard. Abroad, Sidr honey can cost more than $120 for 500 grams (18 ounces), while inside Yemen the same amount sells for $10.
“We are suffering a lot,” said Fares al-Houry, who runs a honey store in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital.