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LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s annual inflation jumped to 16.6 percent in December from 15.3 percent in November, outstripping last week’s upwardly revised forecast, the Central Statistical Office said on Tuesday.


Inflation has been rising sharply in Africa’s biggest copper producer, driven largely by food prices. It stood at 8.9 percent in December 2007.


“The increase of 1.3 percentage points in the annual inflation rate in December 2008 was mainly due to increases in the cost of food and beverages,” the CSO said.


The country’s Treasury last week lifted its forecast for December to 15.9 percent from an original forecast of 7.0 percent a year ago, and predicted the measure would ease back to 10.0 percent in 2009 and 9.0 percent in 2010.


Zambia was targeting inflation to remain in single digits in 2008, in line with a $79.2 million three-year poverty reduction programme agreed with the International Monetary Fund.


But a leap in international food prices and higher fuel costs in the first half of the year pushed inflation up.


The CSO also said the trade deficit widened to 337.2 billion Zambian kwacha in November from 16.8 billion kwacha the previous month, mainly due to lower copper exports during the month.