Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir ordered the resumption of sorghum exports to neighboring South Sudan after the countries signed an agreement last week to open the border to trade, officials from both countries said.
Bashir directed his government to start shipments next month after harvest season and once both countries’ parliaments have ratified ratify the accord, Abdel Raouf Amir, minister plenipotentiary in Sudan’s Foreign Ministry, said by phone today from Khartoum, the capital.
“His general statement is welcome definitely, it is appreciated,” South Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wol Mayar Ariech said by phone today from Juba, the capital of South Sudan. “But this is a political statement that has to be transformed into practice; it has to be implemented.”
Sudan restricted cross-border trade before South Sudan’s secession in July 2011. As a dispute between the countries over oil payments brought them to the brink of war in April, Sudan declared a state of emergency in border districts of three states. The move further restricted traders who had been moving goods across the border in defiance of the authorities, boosting prices.
Sudan and South Sudan on Sept. 27 signed an agreement to set up a demilitarized buffer zone along their border and resume oil exports. The deal allowed South Sudan to resumed 350,000 barrels a day of crude production that it shut down in January because of a dispute over the amount it paid to transport oil along a pipeline through Sudan to a port on the Red Sea.
A separate accord seeks to facilitate cross-border trade with the establishment of a Joint Ministerial Committee on Trade Relations. The countries planned to open 10 border crossings, Wol said. South Sudan’s parliament is expected to ratify the agreements next week, he said.
South Sudan has no quantitative data on imports from Sudan prior to the border closing because the area was militarized and there were no customs points, David Chan, director of South Sudan’s National Statistics Bureau, said by phone today from Juba.
The cost of a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of sorghum increased to 30 South Sudanese pounds in August from about 18 pounds in November, according to data collected by U.K.-based charity Oxfam in markets in Malakal, capital of the border state of White Nile. The official rate of exchange is 3 pounds a dollar, while the U.S. currency fetches about 4.40 pounds on the black market.
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