Sudan has registered a record trade deficit of US$3.5 billion in the first nine months this year, amid signs of a deepening economic crisis.
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"The deficit in the trade balance reached its highest level during the third quarter of the current fiscal year 2022, recording more than US$3.5 billion," the Central Bank of Sudan (CBOS) said in its newly released quarterly Foreign Trade Statistical Digest.
Sudan's imports of foreign goods from January to September amounted to slightly more than US$7.1 billion, while its exports dropped to the lowest level of about US$3.6 billion.
"For many years, the trade balance did not achieve a surplus because of the problem of decline in exports and increased imports," economic analyst Ali Ismail said, adding that the problem of weak exports should be blamed on more than one party, with the state, producers and exporters all responsible for the situation.
The need to address the issue of weak exports through attracting international companies to increase the production of exported goods at lower costs. Essam Al-Zain, director of an import and export company in the capital Khartoum, criticized the tax policies for leading to a rise in production cost, "which in turn leads to a rise in the size of imports."
Sudan imports many products that could have been manufactured locally, but its investment has been attracted to neighboring countries because of the low cost of production there. This African country imports most of its petroleum, food and medicines from other countries, with gold representing its major export.
To make things worse, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), the U.S. and European countries suspended the flow of more than US$8 billion into Sudan in the wake of the state of emergency imposed by the military in October 2021.
Sudan's debt relief process under the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative has also been halted. In fact, Sudan has been facing an economic crisis since the secession of South Sudan in 2011 which cost Sudan 75 percent of its oil revenues.
The Sudanese government has recently adopted measures including a significant increase in service fees in order to cover the deficit in state budget amid the economic crisis. Under these government measures, the Sudanese pound's exchange rate was weakened by 26.8 percent from 445 pounds to 564 pounds for one U.S. dollar.
Port fees have also been raised by more than 300 percent, as port floor fees have nearly doubled four times, in addition to an increase in container shipping fees by about 500 percent in some ports.