January 29, 2018 / 5:23 PM / 20 days ago

Ghana likely to hedge oil imports as prices rebound -source

* Brent reaches highest in five years

* Ghana averagely imports more oil that it exports

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Ghana will likely hedge its oil imports under a new risk management strategy to keep fiscal consolidation on track as global crude prices recover, a finance ministry source told Reuters on Monday.

Brent crude futures hit $71 a barrel last week before easing to $69.88 on Monday, but prices were still on track for their strongest start to the year in five years.

The West African country has largely been a net crude importer, except last year when oil exports exceeded imports by around $990 million, according to central bank data.

While future price recovery was partially good news for Ghana’s oil exports, the government fears it could also derail price stability and spike fuel-related expenditures.

The major commodity exporter operates a deregulated consumer fuel pricing mechanism after the government reluctantly scrapped subsidies in 2015 under a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“It’s a challenge and we are working on a comprehensive oil risk management strategy to ensure we remain on track ... Buying some call options is most likely,” the source said, suggesting plans to hedge using futures contracts.

The holder of a call option has the discretion to assume a long position in crude futures at the strike price. Contracts are available for trading at derivative markets such as the New York Mercantile Exchange.

After cumulatively easing its benchmark policy rate by 550 basis points last year, the central bank last week held the rate at 20 percent, citing emerging inflation pressures as global prices recover.

Ghana, which also exports cocoa and gold, is in its final year of a $918 million credit deal with the IMF to reduce budget deficit, public debt, inflation and stabilize its volatile local currency. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo, editing by David Evans)

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