Sudan inflation jumps to 52% on food price rises
Sudan's annual inflation rate soared to 52 percent in January, officials said Wednesday, on the back of food price rises that have triggered protests and a security crackdown on opposition groups.
The January inflation rate more than doubled the 25-percent figure recorded in December, Central Statistics Office chief Karamallah Ali told a news conference in Khartoum.
"This rate of inflation is the highest in recent years," Ali said. "Even in 2013 when inflation was very high, it did not reach this level."
Ali said the January figure was driven by rises in the prices of essential items like bread, sugar and cooking oil.
Prices have steadily climbed in Sudan since South Sudan seceded in 2011, but the latest sharp rise in the price of bread in particular has fuelled widespread discontent.
Opposition groups and activists have repeatedly called for anti-government protests since early January, but police and security agents have swiftly dispersed their rallies.
The loss of nearly 75 percent of oil earnings following the north-south split has impacted Sudan's key source of foreign currency used for purchasing food and other imports.
That in turn has hit the Sudanese pound, which has witnessed volatile trading on the black market against the dollar in recent weeks.
Fluctuations on the foreign currency market have forced the central bank to twice devalue the pound since January.
On Wednesday, the pound was trading at 33 to a dollar on the black market, while the official rate is 30. In January, it even touched 45 on the black market.
The Sudanese economy has also suffered from US trade sanctions imposed on Khartoum in 1997.
Washington imposed the sanctions over Khartoum's alleged backing for radical Islamist groups and over the conflict in the western region of Darfur.
The United States lifted the embargo on October 12 but international banks remain wary of entering into transactions with Sudan, officials say.
Washington's policy of keeping Sudan on its list of "state sponsors of terrorism" has also hampered progress. The International Monetary Fund says this has blocked "badly needed debt relief".