ABUJA: Nigeria’s inflation rate climbed for a 15th consecutive month in January even as the central bank kept borrowing costs at a record high to control price growth. Inflation in Africa’s most-populous nation quickened to 18.7 percent from 18.6 percent in December, according to an e-mailed statement from the Abuja-based National Bureau of Statistics. That’s the highest rate since September 2005, according to central bank data. The median of 18 economists in a Bloomberg survey was for the rate to stay unchanged. Prices rose 1 percent in the month.
Foreign-currency shortages after the Central Bank of Nigeria removed a currency peg in June, causing the naira to lose almost 40 percent of its value against the dollar, has pushed the inflation rate to the highest in more than a decade as the costs of imports surged. The central bank continues to block importers of 41 items it deems non-essential from the official foreign-currency market, forcing them to source dollars from the black market at more than 30 percent the inter-bank rate, adding more pressure to the prices consumers pay for food to fuel.
“Foreign currency shortages are still a serious problem, and the naira has continued to fall on the parallel market,” John Ashbourne, a London-based economist at Capital Economics Ltd., said in e-mailed responses to questions. “The widening gap between the official and the parallel rate, which is now almost as wide as it was before the 2016 devaluation, is an indication that demand is significantly outstripping supply in the official market.” Annual food inflation accelerated to 17.8 percent from 17.4 percent in December, driven by increases in the prices of bread and cereals, meat, oil and fats and fish, the statistics office said.