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ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana's economy grew 8.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012 while a sharp rise in producer prices underlined persistent inflationary pressures, the West African country's national statistics office said on Wednesday.

While the growth was slower than the 14.4 percent rate registered for 2011 - the first full year of commercial oil production - it was slightly ahead of analyst forecasts of around eight percent growth for this year.

Ghana's statistics office said growth fell on a quarter-on-quarter basis by 22.2 percent in the first quarter due to seasonal effects.

Magnus Ebo Duncan, head of economic statistics at the Ghana Statistical Service said overall, the year-on-year growth was supported by an increase in gold and bauxite production, which made up for lower-than-expected oil production.

Ghana's economy has become one of the fastest growing in Africa. The country is the world's second-biggest cocoa producer and Africa's second biggest gold producer behind South Africa.

"Oil production was lower than expected in the first quarter, but gold did very well, increasing more than 50 percent. And also bauxite which rose by more than 40 percent," Duncan told a news conference in Accra.

Tullow Oil, operator of Ghana's Jubilee offshore field, said in May it was currently producing 70,000 barrels a day and that a long-delayed target of 120,000 bpd would now probably be reached next year.

Ghana's statistics office also said producer prices in the country, a guide to consumer price inflation, rose 18.01 percent year-on year in May, well up on the 15.81 percent recorded in April, underlining inflationary pressures in the economy.

"That is a worrying rise, but given the pressure the currency has been under - perhaps not entirely surprising," said Razia Khan of Standard Chartered Bank of the months-long decline of the cedi against the dollar as the economy sucks in imports.

"Although the strength of the relationship between PPI and CPI has often been called into question, it is still not particularly good news for the consumer inflation outlook, although this remains in single digits for now," she said.

Ghana's annual consumer inflation rose to 9.3 percent in May from 9.1 percent the month before.
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