UPDATE 3-Ghana inflation rises to 31.7% in July, highest since 2003

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ACCRA, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Ghana’s consumer inflation accelerated to 31.7% annually in July from 29.8% in June, its highest since late 2003, data showed on Wednesday, as the government’s top statistician warned that it was not possible to say whether prices had peaked.

The central bank has raised its main lending rate by 550 basis points since November to try to rein in inflation. Data showed the pace at which it increased in July had slowed for the second month in a row.

But “it would be early days to say that inflation is peaking, and early days to say whether the month-to-month variation is truly slowing,” government statistician Samuel Kobina Annim said at a news conference.

Ghana’s broader economic situation is also challenging. The cedi currency has depreciated around 30% this year and all three major credit rating agencies have downgraded Ghana’s sovereign bonds into ‘junk’ status.

Unable to tap global capital markets, the gold- and cocoa-producing nation in July announced that it would seek support from the International Monetary Fund as its balance-of-payments deteriorates.

The government has blamed its woes on a combination of external forces, including COVID-19, the Ukraine crisis, and American and Chinese economic slumps.

Prices for imported items accelerated faster than locally produced items for the fourth straight month in July, with transportation and fuel costs leading the way ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began at the end of February.

But cereals, of which Ghana imports more than 20% of its stock from Russia, fell out of the top three largest inflation contributors for the first time since then. Such variations make it hard to pinpoint where inflation rates are headed, Annim said.

“We can’t say that things are getting better, because on the face of what we’re seeing, it’s coming from different sources,” he said. “We have to be careful not to draw such conclusions at this time.” (Reporting by Christian Akorlie and Cooper Inveen; Editing by Alexander Winning, Alessandra Prentice, Toby Chopra and Mark Porter)