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PH inflation slightly eases to 4.5% in March

The country’s inflation rate slowed down to 4.5 percent in March from the previous month’s 4.7 percent on the back of cheaper food prices, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported yesterday.

The average price increase of basic goods and services for the first three months of 2021 also reached 4.5 percent.

In a virtual press briefing, PSA Undersecretary and national statistician Dennis Mapa attributed last month’s easing inflation rate mainly to deceleration in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, particularly vegetables like garlic, fruits, and fish.

“So we can say that because of good weather after the storm that we experienced in last quarter of 2020, these contributed to downward movement in prices of vegetables, including fruits and fish,” Mapa said.

He said the food and non-alcoholic beverages index had a 50.9-percent share to overall inflation in March.

Mapa said retail prices of meat, particularly pork, however, picked up to 20.9 percent, which he believed was caused by low supply.

He said retail prices of pure pork meat in the National Capital Region averaged P329 per kilo in March from P323 per kilo the previous month.

In areas outside NCR, it slightly declined to P312 from P317.

“Of course the ASF (African swine fever) nag-start mag-contribute sa pagtaas ng presyo ng (started contributing to higher prices of) meat, particularly pork,” he added.

Mapa also cited higher costs of beef and chicken in March, which increased along with pork prices.

He said the commodity group with the second-largest share in last month’s overall inflation was transport, particularly tricycle fare.

Mapa said faster increases were recorded in prices of transport with 13.8-percent inflation.

He added that the inflation in the NCR also slowed down to 3.7 percent in March from 4.1 percent the previous month, while those in areas outside of the NCR also eased to 4.7 percent from 4.8 percent.

BSP PROJECTION

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno said the full-year inflation average is expected to surpass the government’s target band even as risks to the inflation outlook remain broadly balanced.

Diokno said last month’s inflation print is within the central bank’s 4.2-5 percent target band for March.

“The overall latest outturn is consistent with expectations that inflation could settle above the high end of the target in 2021, reflecting the impact of supply-side constraints on domestic prices of key food commodities, such as meat, as well as the continuing rise in world oil prices,” he said in a Viber message to journalists.

Diokno said a tighter domestic supply of meat products and improved global economic activity could lend further upward pressures on inflation.

“However, ongoing pandemic also continues to pose downside risks to the inflation outlook as the recent surge in virus infections and challenges over mass vaccination programs continue to temper prospects for domestic demand,” he added.

Monetary authorities forecast this year’s inflation to average at 4.2 percent while next year’s average inflation forecast is 2.8 percent. “Supply-side influences (will) subside,” he said. “At the same time, timely and effective implementation of direct measures by the national government could contribute to easing price pressures.”*PNA

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