Yemen cenbank expects fund transfers 'in coming days', to ease import crisis

ABU DHABI, July 20 (Reuters) - Yemen’s Central Bank Governor said on Wednesday a second round of transfers of bank funds abroad to facilitate imports would take place in the coming days.

Reuters exclusively reported last week that the disruption of Yemen’s banking system due to the civil war had left importers unable to buy new food stocks from abroad as over $200 million was stuck in banks.

Yemen imports more than 90 percent of its food, including the lion’s share of its wheat and all its rice.

“The issue of transferring foreign currency and feeding the accounts of national banks abroad will be resolved,” the Houthi-allied Saba news agency quoted central bank governor Mohammed bin Hammam as saying.

“Outside partners have agreed to go ahead with the second phase within the coming days and the process will continue until the crisis is completely resolved,” he said.

Hammam did not elaborate on how the transfers would take place.

His comments about a second phase of transfers confirm what an official at a Yemeni government bank told Reuters last week about a first batch of transfers taking place earlier this year.

The official had said the Saudi-led coalition allowed as much as $100 million from three commercial banks to be transported by plane to Bahrain. The funds were then deposited in an account with Yemen’s Tadhamon International Islamic Bank in Saudi Arabia.

With Western banks cutting credit lines for traders shipping food to Yemen on fear they would not be repaid due to the security chaos and fragile financial system, importers have resorted to withdrawing the money in Yemen and then sending it abroad, usually by plane.

Without imported staples such as wheat and flour, the United Nations says many areas of Yemen are now close to famine as most buffer stocks have been drawn down. (Reporting by Maha El Dahan; editing by Susan Thomas)