Onions, vegetables still costly though food inflation drops

Even as India's annual food inflation based on wholesale prices fell to 15.52 percent for the week ended Jan 8, high prices continued to pinch people at large with onions 100 percent dearer over the past year and vegetables 65 percent.

New Delhi: Even as India's annual food inflation based on wholesale prices fell to 15.52 percent for the week ended Jan 8, high prices continued to pinch people at large with onions 100 percent dearer over the past year and vegetables 65 percent.

Yet, this was the second week of decline, from 16.91 percent the week ended Jan 1, after five weeks of rise that saw food inflation surge to a 52-week high of 18.32 percent, as per data on wholesale price index released by the commerce and industry ministry.

Much to the discomfort of industry and people, the annual inflation for primary articles continued to rule higher at 17.03 percent, while those for fuels at 11.53 percent and non-food articles at 23 percent remained a matter for grave concern.

In fact, data released does not consider the latest petrol price hike of Rs.2.50 per litre. Fuel price rise has a cascading effect on inflation.

Reacting to the latest data and acknowledging that the latest increase in petrol prices could have a cascading effect on other items like food articles, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: "Some of the vegetable prices are still high. I do not know what would be the impact of the recent increase because these figures are two weeks old."

Under attack from all sections of the society, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday expressed concern over high prices and assured all steps to ease this burden, but he also expressed helplessness at certain aspects that had continued to fuel inflation.

"I am not an astrologer. But I am confident that the price situation would be brought under control," he told reporters at Rashtrapati Bhavan after a cabinet reshuffle and induction of some new faces in the union council of ministers.

"There are certain factors beyond our control. But despite the problem, I am confident we will be able to bring price stability by March."

The government unveiled a series of anti-inflation steps last week, including regulation of exports and imports, sale of onions through government agencies using state-run firms to source pulses and stringent action against hoarders.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been on the defensive after the opposition has been raking up the issue of price rise in rallies across the country, especially over onions, selling at Rs.55-60 per kg.

The following are the yearly rise and fall in prices of some main commodities that form the sub-index for food articles:

Onions: 98.15 percent

Vegetables: 65.39 percent

Fruits: 15.19 percent

Potatoes: (-)2.94 percent

Milk: 13.27 percent

Eggs, meat, fish: 12.94 percent

Cereals: 0.23 percent

Rice: 2.86 percent

Wheat: (-)6.11 percent

Pulses: (-)14.92 percent

Though food inflation has dropped from the yearly highs it touched for the week ending Dec 25, its persistence in double-digits, have led to the belief that the Reserve Bank of India will hike key interest rates at its periodical monetary policy review meet on Jan 25.

IANS   

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