August 24, 2017 / 11:32 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Congo H1 copper output up 15 pct, inflation to hit 52 pct -cbank

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JOHANNESBURG, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Copper output in Congo, Africa’s top producer of the metal, rose 15 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2017 to more than half a million tonnes, and cobalt production surged 27 percent to almost 40,000 tonnes, the central bank said.

But despite higher commodity production, Democratic Republic of Congo’s central bank forecast year-end inflation at 52.6 percent, up from an earlier projection of 48 percent and from last year’s figure of 25 percent.

It gave precise H1 figures for copper and cobalt as 553,811 tonnes and 39,535 tonnes, respectively.

Increasing prices - copper has risen nearly 19 percent on the London Metals Exchange this year - and ramped up production at several large mines has boosted Congo’s output of major metals after two years of stagnation.

However, a lag in tax revenues from the mining sector and high government deficits have left the country facing a fiscal crisis with only about three weeks of imports cover left.

The franc currency is set to lose more than a third of its value this year, which has fuelled Congo’s worst inflation since the global financial crisis in 2009.

The government has solicited emergency financial support from the IMF and other donors but an ongoing political crisis fuelled by President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down when his mandate expired last December may have dimmed its prospects of receiving aid. (Reporting By Aaron Ross; Editing by Tim Cocks)

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