Sudanese police scatter protest sparked by bread price hike

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese police fired teargas on Saturday to disperse some 400 demonstrators who marched through the city of Sennar to protest against a hike in bread prices, eyewitnesses told Reuters.

The were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

Bread prices in Sudan have doubled since the government eliminated subsidies this week under its 2018 budget.

The price of a loaf of bread rose from 0.5 Sudanese pounds (7 cents) to 1 pound, the Bakeries Union said on Friday, after the prices of wheat flour rose.

“We were protesting today against the rise in bread prices and we call on the government to scrap it,” said a protestor in Sennar, about 300 km (185 miles) south of Khartoum.

“We can’t afford to buy a piece of bread for a whole pound,” said the demonstrator, who did not want to give his name.

The ministry of interior could not be reached for comment.

The country’s main opposition parties have called for peaceful protests against the price hikes, and crowds gathered outside bakeries in Khartoum on Friday, expressing frustration at the government’s move.

Sudan’s government has begun a series of economic reforms in line with International Monetary Fund recommendations aimed at putting the country’s ailing economy back on track.

The economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output, its main source of foreign currency and government income.

The Sudanese pound has weakened since October after the United States lifted a 20-year-old trade embargo, prompting businesses to increase import volumes, putting pressure on already scarce foreign currency.

The country devalued its currency, the pound, to 18 per U.S. dollar, more than double its previous peg of 6.7 pounds to the dollar.

Reporting by Khaled Abdelaziz; Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Ros Russell