Rising food prices caused the nation’s consumer price index (CPI) to expand at the fastest pace in more than a year last month, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) said yesterday.
The inflation index rose 1.65 percent last month from a year ago, hitting its highest level since February last year, with the reading in the first four months increasing 1.01 percent from the same period last year, the DGBAS said in its monthly report.
Food-sector prices jumped 5.04 percent year-on-year last month, the biggest rise among the major sectors, driven mainly by a sharp rise in the prices of fruit, meat, seafood and grain products, according to the agency’s survey.
Fruit prices soared annually by 19.3 percent last month, while meat, seafood and grain products were up 13.79 percent, 8.4 percent and 2.7 percent respectively during the same period, the report said.
The rise in food prices further raised the price of household essentials.
Prices of 17 major household essentials — mainly food products and daily use items — monitored by the Cabinet rose 6.31 percent last month from a year ago, marking the highest increase since January 2009.
The DGBAS said the nation’s poorest 20 percent of households saw their headline inflation reading jump 1.98 percent last month from a year ago, which is higher than the 1.51 percent rise for the richest 20 percent of households, as food costs amounted to a higher proportion of low-income families’ total costs.
However, the DGBAS said average prices have remained relatively stable.
“Excluding the food and energy sector, headline inflation last month showed only 0.49 percent growth from a year earlier,” DGBAS Deputy Director Tsai Yu-tai (蔡鈺泰) said.
The core CPI, which excludes vegetables, fruit and energy prices, climbed 1.24 percent last month from a year earlier, which is also lower than the increase in headline inflation.
Despite the temporary food price-driven acceleration in inflation during March and last month, the lack of demand-side inflationary pressures still gives the central bank ample leeway to support the nation’s ongoing recovery, Singapore-based Barclays Capital economist Leong Wai Ho (梁偉豪) said.
Leong said that inflation would level off in the next few months as the spike in food prices eases, before re-accelerating later in the year along with rising domestic demand.
On the wholesale front, the report showed that the wholesale price index (WPI) increased 0.12 percent last month from the same period last year, following a 0.02 percent year-on-year contraction in March.
In the first four months of the year, the WPI grew 0.08 percent from the previous year.