Beijing: China’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), barometer of inflation, has soared to a 12-year monthly high 8.7% in February, fuelled by skyrocketing food prices and the worst ever winter in five decades that damaged crops.
Food prices surged 23.3% with prices of pork, staple meat, going up by 63.4% and vegetable prices by 46%, contributing to about 80% of the CPI increase, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said.
Snowstorms, the worst in a century in some regions, had wrought havoc in half of China from January to February, devastating crops and disrupting supplies.
The February CPI figure went beyond the market expectations and the forecast of 8.3% by Chinas second largest lender, the Bank of China.
The previous monthly record of 8.9% was reported in May 1996. The CPI rose at an annual rate of 14.11% from 1992 to 1996.
The Chinese government, concerned over the sensitive issue of price rise, has embarked upon a series of steps to tame the inflation, including raising the interest rates to curb liquidity and initiating steps to ramp up food output.
Non-food prices went up by only 1.6% from a year earlier, the NBS said, according to official Xinhua news agency.
In his work report to the ongoing session of parliament, the National Peoples Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao had listed curbing price rise and preventing overheating of the economy as top priorities for the government for the current year.
China had reported a Gross Domestic Product growth of 11.4% in 2007. The CPI had reached an 11-year monthly high of 7.1% in January this year.
Identifying the current price hikes and increasing inflationary pressures as the “biggest concern” of the people, the Chinese Premier had told the parliament last week that all “powerful” measures must be taken to step up effective supply while curbing excessive demand.