Ramadan approaching, Sudanese fret about food prices

Wed Jul 27, 2011 2:51pm EDT
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By El-Tayyeb Siddig and Ulf Laessing

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Staring at the small handful of change she got back from a merchant after buying spices and beans in a market in central Khartoum, Nadia Ahmed realizes just how badly inflation is hurting her family.

"The market is generally expensive," she said. "Food commodities are very, very expensive."

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starting next week, Sudanese like Nadia are stocking up with meat, vegetables, fruit and sweets so they can prepare lavish evening meals for their families, who fast from sunrise to sunset.

Prices usually shoot up in the run-up to Ramadan, but this year the increases come on top of an inflation rate that has almost doubled since November.

"We'll buy just a quarter of the amount we usually buy for Ramadan compared to previous years," she said.

Oil lies at the heart of the problem.

With the independence of South Sudan three weeks ago as part of the 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war, the North has lost 75 percent of the country's oil production of 500,000 barrels a day.

Oil is the lifeline of both economies and the main source of foreign currency, so the north will be hit hard as its share of oil revenues dwindles.   Continued...

<p>A person counts after receiving the new Sudanese currency from a cashier at a branch of the central bank of Sudan in Khartoum July 24, 2011. REUTERS/ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah</p>