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Sudanese rely on starches, cut meals to one a day

September 5 - 2018 KHARTOUM / ED DAEIN
Eating dry porridge in Darfur (file photo)
Eating dry porridge in Darfur (file photo)

Sudanese in various parts of the country have difficulty in coping with the continuously rising food and consumer goods prices.

A number of families told Radio Dabanga that the circumstances forced them to reduce their daily meals to just one.

People in Khartoum reported that they eat mostly starches instead of vegetables, meat, and fruit.

A basic school teacher in Ed Daein, capital of East Darfur, said that a malwa [approx. three kilogrammes] of millet has risen to SDG 17, a bottle of cooking oil to SDG 100 (*$ 3.50).

“We now pay SDG 3 for one small loaf of bread, while last December we received three larger loaves for one Pound,” he complained. “My monthly salary does not exceed SDG 1,300.”

El Damazin in Blue Nile state is currently witnessing a severe bread crisis. Long queues of people are waiting in front of bakeries to get bread. For SDG 10 they receive seven loaves of bread – if available.

Austerity measures

At the end of 2017, the Sudanese government decided on a package of austerity measures in an attempt to address the huge gap in its finances. Its priorities did not change: more than 70 per cent of its spending is still allocated to the defence and security sectors, less than 10 per cent will be spent on health and education.

The custom duties were raised by more than 200 per cent – which immediately affected the prices of most of the goods in early January. The government further decided to liberalise the flour market which lead to the doubling of the bread prices.

The indicative exchange rate of the Sudanese Pound against the US Dollar was devalued twice, in early January from nearly SDG 7 to SGD 18, and in early February to nearly SDG 30. Yet, the US Dollar rate in the parallel forex market which settled at SDG 30 in January began to rise again in February, and reached SDG 46 in mid-July.

Due to the combination of major tax increases and the fall of the Sudanese currency value, prices of locally produced commodities like meat, milk, and vegetables are now increasing continuously.

No stabilisation’

Economic analyst and former banker Hafiz Ismail warned that Sudan may soon enter the stage of hyperinflation.

“As long as Khartoum does not take any serious measures to remedy the economic crisis in the country, I do not see any possibility for the stabilisation of the Sudanese Pound rate at the moment,” he told Radio Dabanga in early August.

“In the past, the government used to resort to temporary solutions by obtaining cash reserves from friendly countries, which is not possible any more. Borrowing is also out of the question because Sudan's credit page is far from clean,” he said. “In addition, productive sectors such as agriculture and industry are suffering from fuel shortages, which makes it very hard to produce enough for the export which brings in hard currency.”

According to Ismail, the economic malaise is a reflection of the political crisis in the country. “The economy cannot be cured without comprehensive political reforms.”

He said that the Sudanese have become paralysed. “People do not have enough money to meet their simple needs such as sufficient meals, rent, or medical treatment, as the money and stocks are located abroad. They are now focussed on surviving only.”

The inflation rate rose to 63,86 per cent in June. Following new increases in the prices of food and other basic consumer goods in Sudan in mid-July, economic analysts began to warn for an imminent economic collapse.

* Based on the indicative US Dollar rate quoted by the Central Bank of Sudan (CboS)

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