Sudan to end wheat subsidies, private sector to handle imports

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Sudan plans to cut wheat subsidies completely under its 2018 budget which will take effect at the beginning of January, and will leave wheat imports to the private sector, a finance ministry official said on Thursday.

Bread prices would not increase, however, because of competition between companies importing wheat, State Minister for Finance Magdi Hassan Yaseen told Reuters.

The government would buy locally-produced wheat at "encouraging prices", he said.

Sudan imported 2 million tons of wheat in 2017, Yaseen said. Local wheat production was 445,000 tons.

The North African country said this week it will devalue the Sudanese pound to 18 SDG per U.S. dollar, from a current official rate of 6.7 per dollar, weeks after the International Monetary Fund urged it to float its currency.

The IMF also said Sudan must make tough economic reforms, including phasing out wheat and fuel subsidies.

Yaseen ruled out lifting subsidies on fuel and vital medicines.

The Sudanese pound has weakened against the dollar since Washington lifted 20 years of economic sanctions in October, encouraging traders to step up imports, putting pressure on scarce hard currency.

The import-dependent country has suffered both from the sanctions and from the secession of South Sudan in 2011, when it lost three-quarters of its oil output, its main source of
foreign currency.

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