Sudan: Annual inflation tops 200% in Sept as food prices soar

Annual inflation in Sudan soared to a record 212.29 percent last month on surging food and transport prices.

A street vendor sells fresh vegetables in the Al Daim market in Khartoum, Sudan, in April 2019 [File: Fredrik Lerneryd/Bloomberg]

Sudan’s annual inflation has hit a new record peak as prices of bread and other staples keep surging, according to official figures.

The country’s Central Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday that the annual inflation in September rose to 212.29 percent from 166.83 percent in August. The record high was driven by hikes in bread and vegetable prices as well as increasing transport fares, it said.

Inflation has been rising in Sudan since before the military’s overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 amid a popular uprising. The economy has suffered from decades of United States sanctions and mismanagement under al-Bashir who had ruled the country since a 1989 military coup.

The transitional government is struggling to revive the economy amid a huge budget deficit and widespread shortages of essential goods, including fuel, bread and medicine.

Sudan has close to $60bn in foreign debt, and debt relief and access to foreign loans are widely seen as its gateway to economic recovery. But access to foreign loans is linked to the removal of sanctions related to the country’s blacklisting by the US as a state sponsor of “terrorism”.

Sudanese and Israeli officials have said that US President Donald Trump’s administration is pushing Khartoum to normalise relations with Israel in exchange for being struck off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The issue has divided Sudan’s fragile interim government.

If Sudan were to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, it would be another diplomatic victory for Trump heading into the final weeks before the November 3 US elections.

The International Monetary Fund last month signed off on the Sudanese government’s economic reform programme, which could eventually allow the country to get debt relief and move ahead with rebuilding the battered economy. The reform blueprint includes a gradual lifting of energy subsidies, which eat up 36 percent of the government’s budget.

Sudan’s national currency, the pound, has plunged dramatically, selling for more than 250 to $1 on the black market. The official rate remains at 57 Sudanese pounds to $1.

The coronavirus pandemic and recent seasonal flash floods have added to the calamity. Authorities in September declared an economic emergency, said the country was a natural disaster area and imposed a three-month state of emergency.

Meanwhile, tensions escalated in the country’s east on Wednesday, following Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s decision to fire Saleh Ammar, the newly appointed governor of Kassala province. In the neighbouring Red Sea province, authorities imposed 16-hour curfews in the cities of Port Sudan and Suakin, after angry protesters blocked major roads, according to the official SUNA news agency.

Ammar warned security forces not to use violence against the protesters on Wednesday, a day after he was fired, less than three months after his July appointment. Earlier, he was barred from entering Kassala by protesters, who opposed his appointment on tribal grounds.

Source: AP