Weekly inflation surges 30% when compared with last year

Amid alarming rise in the flour and chicken, the weekly inflation in Pakistan surged by 30.60 percent when compared with the same period last year, says the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

In its report for the week ending Jan 5, the PBS calculated the figures through the Sensitive Price Index (SPI) that takes into account 51 essential items, collected from 50 markets in 17 major cities across the country.

The report also revealed that the increase in the SPI had spread across all income groups, but the lower and middle income groups were the worst-hit.

Meanwhile, the SPI week-on-week also increased by 1.09 percent during this week. A major increase was observed in the prices of food items led by chicken with 16.09 percent, broken Basmati rice 5.16 percent, wheat flour 4.87 percent, bananas 2.97 percent, onions 2.65 percent, bread 1.24 percent, powdered salt 1.07 percent and pulse moong 1.02 percent.

On the other hand, a reduction was observed in the prices of potatoes 4.61 percent, eggs 1.31 percent, tomatoes 1.17 percent, LPG 0.85 percent, vegetable ghee 0.71 percent, cooking oil 0.32 percent, sugar 0.24 percent and pulse masoor 0.05 percent.

During the week, prices of 23 out of 51 items increased, nine items decreased and 19 items remained stable.

Noting that the SPI had been increasing in double digits since Feb 2021, with minor variations throughout 2021-22 [FY22] and 2022-23 [FY23], which again shows how the food inflation is hitting the people hard. Most of the items listed in SPI are of food while the others too relate to the food inflation.

The prices are estimated to go further up in the coming week in view of the recent government decision to increase the prices of wheat flour, sugar and ghee by 25 to 62 percent for sale through the Utility Stores Corporation (USC), to reduce the size of untargeted food subsidies.

When compared with the same period last year, a 501 percent increase was witnessed in the prices of onions followed by an 82.5 percent for chicken. Wheat flour and tea were also reported as being costlier by more than 45 percent and 65.41 percent respectively.

Similarly, the price of diesel was reported to have gone up by almost 61 percent, eggs 50.51 percent, powdered salt 49.50 percent, petrol 48.21 percent, pulse moong 47 percent, broken Basmati rice 46 percent, bananas 46 percent and wheat flour 45 percent.

On the flip side, the prices of powdered chilli dropped by 23 percent while electricity costs were down 14 percent, mainly because of adjustments in the fuel cost base.

Another dark aspect of the numbers is the massive price difference in different parts of the country. For example, a 20kg wheat flour bag cost Rs2,880 in Hyderabad, Rs2,700 in Sukkur and Quetta, Rs2,600 in Peshawar and about Rs1,295 across most of Punjab. But the national average flour price reported by PBS ranged between Rs1,295 in Punjab and Rs3,000 in Karachi.

Likewise, the highest per kg price of onions was reported from the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad (between Rs260 to Rs280), while Karachi had the lowest (between Rs180-200), while they remained between Rs200-220 in most cities of Punjab as well as Peshawar and Quetta.

Tomato prices were also lowest in Karachi (between Rs40-50 per kg) but were higher in the rest of the country and remained between Rs70-90 per kg.

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