Monday, November 29, 1999

Food inflation declines to 16.12pc, raises hope of further dip

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New Delhi, June 17 (PTI) Food inflation dropped marginally to 16.12 per cent for the week ended June 5 raising hopes that prices might go down further as indicated by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. A 0.62 percentage point decline in food inflation over 16.74 per cent in the previous reporting week would also ease pressure on the Reserve Bank to take immediate policy measures to tame rising prices. The food inflation declined mainly due to softening of prices of fruits, vegetables and tea. Mukherjee, earlier in the week, had expressed the hope that food prices would decline by mid-July in view of the likelihood of a good monsoon. Monsoon accounts for 80 per cent of the annual rains the country receives. Nearly 60 per cent of area under cultivation is rain fed. The weather office has predicted near normal monsoon this year, although it has been slow to advance since hitting the Indian coast in late May. "After July, the trend of monsoon (will become). known. Inflationary pressure would start coming down," he had said. Experts, too, are of the opinion that decline in food prices would depend mainly on the performance of the monsoon. Economists believe food inflation is going to remain volatile for few more weeks till there is clarity on the monsoon front and the current liquidity scenario will prevent RBI from raising rates before its July policy review. Week-on-week, prices of fruits and vegetables fell by six per cent and tea became cheaper by two per cent during the week under review. Fruits cost 14 per cent less. However, prices of urad rose six per cent and that of maize, bajra and gram inched up by one per cent each. When compared to the same period a year ago, prices of potato fell 35 per cent and that of onion by 17.80 per cent. Pulses, however, became costlier by 34 per cent and milk by 21 per cent. "Food inflation will remain volatile unless there is clarity on food production which is largely dependent on monsoon. This week it eased, next week it may spike," HDFC chief economist Abheek Barua. Food inflation has been hovering above 16 per cent since the start of the year. Prices of edibles had started rising last year and peaked to over 20 per cent in December 2009. Last year, food output was hit by poor monsoon. "It (food inflation) all hinges on monsoons. If there is a normal monsoon, second half will see a substantial reduction in food inflation. We see overall inflation easing to 6.5 per cent by March," Crisil chief economist D K Joshi said. MORE PTI MG CS.

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