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February inflation picked up to 3.4%

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Inflation rate in February 2024 picked up to 3.4 percent from 2.8 percent in January, on higher food, beverage and transport prices, the Philippine Statistics Authority said Tuesday.

“This brings the national average inflation from January 2024 to February 2024 at 3.1 percent. In February 2023, inflation rate was higher at 8.6 percent,” the PSA said in a statement.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said despite the uptick, the higher inflation remained within the government’s 2024 target range of 2 percent to 4 percent.

The PSA traced the uptrend in the overall inflation in February to the higher year-on-year increase in the heavily-weighted food and non-alcoholic beverages at 4.6 percent during the month from 3.5 percent in January.

“The annual increase of transport at 1.2 percent during the month from an annual decline of 0.3 percent in January 2024 also contributed to the uptrend,” it said.

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The PSA said housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels also contributed to the uptrend as it recorded a faster annual increase of 0.9 percent in February from 0.7 percent in January.

“Moreover, higher inflation rate was noted in alcoholic beverages and tobacco at 8.6 percent in February 2024 from 8.4 percent in the previous month,” the PSA said.

Food inflation at the national level rose to 4.8 percent in February from 3.3 percent in January, caused by higher prices of rice and meat. This was tempered by slower inflation in some food items such as fish, eggs and dairy products and lower prices recorded for vegetables and sugar.

Food inflation accounted for 49.6 percent of the total price increase in February. Rice remained the top contributor to the month’s inflation, accounting for 2.1 percentage points, while the slight acceleration in meat inflation was attributed to price increases in pork and beef.

Non-food inflation climbed to 2.4 percent from 2.0 percent, driven by increased inflation in housing rentals, utilities and transport.

Meanwhile, core inflation, which excludes selected food and energy items, slowed down to 3.6 percent in February from 3.8 percent in January, data showed.

NEDA said the government is intensifying efforts to mitigate the effects of the El Niño dry spell and help keep the inflation rate within target.

NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the government would continue monitoring food supply and prices and implement necessary policies and strategies to ensure affordable and adequate food for Filipino families, especially those from the most vulnerable sectors.

“As we navigate the economic landscape, it is imperative that we remain vigilant and proactive in our approach to managing inflationary pressures. While we have seen some relief from certain inflation risks, we must not become complacent. The potential impact of a strong El Niño weather pattern on food prices is a significant concern for our community. Rising transportation costs, electricity rates, and volatile oil markets are putting pressure on household finances. Our team is actively formulating robust strategies with the concerned agencies in response to these challenges. We must be agile, adaptive and forward-thinking,” Balisacan said.

He said international rice prices also started to ease, and local supply is expected to increase with the dry season harvest beginning March through April.

Balisacan said the Department of Agriculture (DA) was collaborating closely with the International Rice Research Institute to increase the country’s rice production.

He said the next phase of the vaccine test for African Swine Fever (ASF) is awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval. Once the ASF vaccine is proven efficacious, the government will roll out a vaccination campaign to help ensure adequate pork supply in the country, he said.

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