February 14, 2018 / 3:44 PM / in 11 days

Sudan inflation spikes to 52.37 pct in January after currency slide

KHARTOUM, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Inflation in Sudan surged to 52.37 percent in January from 32.15 percent in December, the state statistics agency said, amid rising food prices that have kindled unrest and a hard currency shortage that has crimped imports.

The Sudanese pound has plummeted to record lows on the black market in recent months after devaluation to 18 per dollar from 6.7 at the start of 2017, following a call by the International Monetary Fund to let the currency float freely.

The government has ruled out a market-determined exchange rate but allowed the currency to weaken further, to as low as 31.5 pounds to the dollar earlier this month.

Businesses say the pound is largely unavailable at this rate however and that they have been forced to resort to an increasingly expensive black market where the currency hit about 40 pounds to the dollar earlier this month.

That rate has since strengthened, to about 33 pounds to the dollar on Wednesday according to traders, after the central bank banned hard currency deposits sourced from the black market.

Dollar trading at commercial banks on Wednesday meanwhile ranged from 27.34-29.64 Sudanese pounds per dollar, according to the Sudanese Central Bank website, suggesting the gap between the parallel and official rates has narrowed.

The sharply weaker currency and a cut to bread subsidies last month have pushed prices sharply higher, prompting protests across the large northeast African country.

“This is the highest inflation rate in years,” said Karamallah Abdul Rahman, head of the statistics agency.

Sudan’s economy has been struggling since the south of the country seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of its oil output. But the United States lifted 20-year-old sanctions against Khartoum in October, renewing hope that Sudan could draw foreign investment again and get its economy on track. (Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz Writing by Amina Ismail Editing by Eric Knecht)

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