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LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s annual inflation rate quickened marginally to 15.3 percent in November from 15.2 percent in October, mainly due to rising food prices, its Central Statistical Office (CSO) said on Wednesday.

The CSO said the November data dented chances of the mineral-rich southern African nation being able to reach a 7.0 percent inflation target by December.

“The increase of 0.1 percentage point in the annual inflation rate from 15.2 percent in October 2008 to 15.3 percent in November was due to the increase in the cost of food,” the CSO said in a monthly bulletin sent to Reuters.

It said the November annual food inflation rate was 18.5 percent, up from 17.6 percent in October this year.

“(Annual) inflation will probably end up at 15.5 percent in December when you factor in recent food price increases,” Lusaka-based economist Chibamba Kanyama said.

Zambia, which has vast copper reserves, had agreed to try to keep inflation within single digits and maintain a stable exchange rate in return for increased funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

But prices of white maize meal, the nation’s staple food, have increased due to a supply crunch triggered by severe floods in the 2007/8 season. The flooding reduced total maize output to 1.2 million tonnes from 1.3 million tonnes the previous season.

Zambia’s Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane said last month that the global financial crisis would make it hard to reduce inflation next year. Musokotwane added that the government would continue to maintain fiscal prudence and economic stability.

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