(Adds Sudanese gold producers statement)
By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Sudan will allow local private sector firms to export gold, Prime Minister Moataz Moussa said on Monday, relaxing the central bank’s grip over exports of the metal as the government tries to shore up the country’s struggling economy.
The measure is part of efforts to stem smuggling of gold, one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency.
“With the blessings of the president of the republic, we have decided to include the private sector in exporting gold,” Moussa said in a message on his Twitter account.
He said the central bank would take the necessary measures to ensure gold exports were channeled through the national economy.
The decision applies to local private companies, as foreign gold-mining companies are already entitled to export.
Under the new regulations, producers will sell foreign currency revenues to the central bank.
“We have agreed with the prime minister to sell all revenues from gold exports to the central bank at the real current rate for the Sudanese pound,” said Abdel Monem al-Siddiq, the head of the local gold exporters union.
He said the price agreed would be higher than the rate of 47.5 Sudanese pounds to the dollar that had persisted since October, when the government effectively devalued the currency by appointing a body comprising bankers and money changers to set the price on a daily basis.
The exchange body will also set a purchase price for gold to encourage miners to channel their products through the central bank.
The black market rate is slightly higher at around 55 Sudanese pounds to the dollar.
Sudan produced around 100 tonnes of gold in 2017, and some 70 percent of output is estimated to be smuggled abroad as producers try to evade regulations requiring them to sell it to the central bank in local currency at a rate far below the black market rate.
Sudan’s economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of its oil output.
Apart from gold, Sudan also exports livestock, sesame and Arabic gum. (Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Writing by Sami Aboudi, Editing by Adrian Croft and Mark Potter)