Retail inflation, calculated on the basis of Consumer Price Index (CPI), increased to 5.52 per cent in March, up from 5.03 per cent recorded in February, showed government data released on Monday. Inflation in food basket, or Consumer Food Price Index (CFPI), rose to 4.94 per cent in March from 3.87 per cent in February.
Vegetable prices declined 4.83 per cent, while cereal and products and sugar and confectionery segments saw prices fall 0.69 and 0.53 per cent, respectively. This, however, was not enough to moderate the price rise in overall food basket.
Oils and fats saw the highest price rise at 24.92 per cent, followed by meat and fish (15.09 per cent), non-alcoholic beverages (14.41 per cent), pulses and products (13.25 per cent), eggs (10.6 per cent), fruits (7.86 per cent), spices (6.72 per cent), prepared meals, snacks, sweets (5.39 per cent), and milk and other dairy products (2.24 per cent).
Inflation in fuel and light segment stood at 4.50 per cent, whereas housing segment saw 3.5 per cent price rise. Health services recorded an inflation rate of 6.17 per cent. Transportn and communication got costlier by 12.55 per cent.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) takes into account retail inflation for finalising its monetary policy. Earlier this month, the central bank had projected retail inflation to remain at 5 per cent in the March quarter of financial year 2020-21 and 5.2 per cent in the first two quarters of the current fiscal.
While retail inflation remained within the RBI-mandated target - 4 per cent with a tolerance band of 2 per cent on either side - it remains on an upward path. This could limit chances of relaxation in interest rates amid the ongoing economic disruption due to coronavirus pandemic. The last time it came down was in December, when it eased to 4.59 per cent, after eight months of rise. It further eased to 4.1 per cent in January, on sharp correction in vegetable and cereal prices, before rebounding to 5.03 per cent in February.
(Edited by Vivek Punj)