ISLAMABAD: Inflation, measured through Consumer Price Index (CPI), eased to 3.2 per cent in March from 3.8pc in the previous month, mainly driven by a drop in prices of perishable eatables.

The CPI-based inflation has decelerated for the third consecutive month after it reached peak of 4.6pc in December 2017. The CPI tracks the prices of around 480 commodities every month in urban centres across the country, according to data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics on Monday.

The average inflation in the first nine months (July-March) of 2017-18 was 3.78pc as compared to 4.01pc in the corresponding period last year. However, it remains below projected target of 6pc for the current fiscal year.

Food inflation was 0.1pc on an annual basis but dipped 0.3pc on a monthly basis. Prices of non-perishable food items went up slightly by 0.19pc while those of perishable products dropped 3.8pc during the month.

Food items whose prices increased the most in March were betel leaves and nuts, up 22.3pc, fresh fruits 6.6pc, chicken 4.4pc, tea 3.2pc, fish 1.07pc, meat 0.9pc, cooking oil 0.48pc, dry fruits 0.45pc, rice 0.44pc, condiments 0.35pc, milk powder 0.28pc, jam & pickles 0.27pc and milk products 0.21pc.

In the same category, tomatoes dipped 20pc month-on-month, onion 19.2pc, potatoes 8.5pc, fresh vegetables 7.3pc, eggs 7.2pc, gur 2.7pc, gram whole 2.5pc, daal chana, 2.1pc, daal mash 1.8pc, besan 1.5pc, sugar 1.04pc, daal moong 0.9pc, daal masoor 0.7pc and wheat flour 0.6pc. On the other hand, non-food inflation was up 5.4pc year-on-year, and 0.7pc on a month-on-month basis.

Global crude oil prices increased in the past few months and their impact was passed on to the consumers in Pakistan. The slight increase in the non-food inflation is mainly due to increase in oil prices in the past few months.

Core inflation, measured by excluding volatile food and energy prices, was recorded at 5.8pc in March and has been steadily rising for the past couple of months.

The gradual build-up of domestic demand is evident in the rising core inflation. Of the 89 commodity groups of CPI, it covers the price movement of 43 items.

Education and health indices rose 17.6pc and 4.7pc respectively on a year-on-year basis while a decline of 16.9pc was witnessed in the index of alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Clothing and footwear rose by 4.8pc while that of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels by 4.3pc.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2018

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