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Stranded Yemeni-American Trying to Flee Civil War for U.S. Coffee Events

Yemen coffee

Coffee being grown in Yemen. Photo courtesy of Andrew Hetzel.

A Yemeni delegation scheduled to represent the Yemen coffee industry at multiple U.S. events this April is reportedly stranded, struggling to flee the country amid airstrikes and and escalating armed conflicts.

Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni-American who normally resides in San Francisco, has been training Yemeni coffee farmers for the past year as part of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) collaboration, recently told Al Jazeera America that he is stranded in Sanaa, where dozens of families are trapped in crossfire and transportation infrastructure has been destroyed or closed due to a rapidly escalating civil war.

Alkhanshali and other Yemen coffee representatives are currently scheduled to be in the U.S. in April. Exporter Shabbir Al-Ezziat is planning to visit the La Colombe Shaw Ave. cafe in Washington D.C. on April 6, while Alkhanshali and others plan to attend the SCAA Event on April 11 for an event at the Cupping Exchange Room (#618). The delegation plans to promote the industry, and shine a light on USAID’s Competitive Agriculture Systems for High Value Crops program, designed to develop cash crops, increase food security among farmers and promote regional peace.

Longtime coffee industry consultant and SCAA board member Andrew Hetzel has been helping facilitate the visit. “Yemen is a historic origin of coffee production with a unique combination of growing conditions, diverse plant genetics, processing method and an ancient trade system that creates desirable flavors not found elsewhere in the coffee industry,” he said in an announcement prior to the news of Alkhanshali’s troubling situation.

In Al Jazeera’s March 28 report, Alkhanshali said he is determined to flee Yemen for America and the SCAA Event, either crossing a border by boat or through the desert into Oman.

(update 3/30: Following is the latest from Hetzel on the delegates’ travel situation)

The situation has and is continuing to change rapidly, so I don’t think we’ll know exactly who will be able to attend that is presently in Yemen until they arrive next week.  I’ve been in contact with several of the exporters and made it clear that their safety is the top priority and that everyone in Seattle will completely understand if they are unable to attend.  As is often the case at origin, we’ll do the best that we can with the situation presented.

We’ll update this report as information surfaces.

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