[PHOTO - AFP/File – A rice vendor is seen here waiting for customers at a shop in Manila.]

MANILA, MAY 6, 2011 (MALAYA) BY JENNIFER AMBANTA - Inflation picked up in April at 4.5 percent, against 4.3 percent in March, as most commodity groups experienced price increases, the National Statistics Office (NSO) yesterday said.

The rate was at the higher end of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ forecast range of 3.7 percent to 4.7 percent.

NSO said that except for the heavily weighted food, beverages and tobacco (FBT) index, all groups posted higher rates.

April’s rate was the highest in 12 months. Inflation during the same month a year ago was also at 4.5 percent.

Excluding selected food and energy items, core inflation moved up to 3.8 percent in April from 3.5 percent in March.

(Photo - Record high food prices are moving to the top of policymaker agendas, driven by fears they could stoke inflation, protectionism and unrest and dent consumer demand in key emerging Asian economies. Photograph by: Reuters, Reuters)

By region, annual inflation in the National Capital Region rose to 4.2 percent in April from 4.0 percent in March, with annual growths higher in all commodity groups except in the FBT and clothing indices.

Annual inflation in areas outside the National Capital Region (AONCR) rose to 4.6 percent in April from 4.5 percent in March, as all the commodity groups registered higher annual increases, except the FBT and miscellaneous items indices.

Compared with the previous month, prices of consumer items at the national level picked up to 0.8 percent in April from 0.3 percent.

The higher inflation was mainly due to the 6.4 percent rise in the fuel, light and water (FLW) index to 6.4 percent from 0.4 percent in March.

The increases in clothing and services were slower at 0.2 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively, from 0.3 percent and 1.4 percent in March.

Housing and repairs and miscellaneous items were at 0.2 percent while FBT was at -0.1 percent.

A negative monthly rate of -3.5 percent was sustained in the fruits and vegetables index for the whole Philippines. The rate was -2.6 percent in NCR and -3.8 percent in AONCR. Lower prices were attributed to sufficient supplies of vegetables and in-season fruits like mangoes, pineapples and papayas.

Good production of eggs during the month resulted in enough supply in the markets. The index for eggs in the entire Philippines dropped -0.1 percent and in the NCR -1.1 percent. Prices of eggs in AONCR went up but at a slower pace of 0.3 percent from 0.7 percent.

Price hikes in selected fresh fish species, shrimps and crabs raised the fish index for the whole Philippines at 0.7 percent from -0.2 percent; for NCR to 0.1 percent from -0.8 percent; and for AONCR to 0.9 percent from -0.1 percent. This was due to bigger demand as consumers shifted from meat to fish in observance of the Lenten season.

Upward price adjustments in fresh pork, chicken and beef contributed to higher growths in the meat index at 0.5 percent from -0.1 percent in the national level; 0.8 percent from -0.6 percent in NCR; and 0.3 percent from 0.1 percent in AONCR.

Increases in prices of canned and processed meat were also noted during the month.

The price of rice nationally and in AONCR went up to 0.3 percent. Nine regions posted positive monthly growth rates with Socsargen registering the highest monthly price increment of 1.0 percent. In the NCR, rice was stable with the index showing zero growth in April, against 0.1 percent in March.

Higher electricity rates and price increases in LPG and kerosene in most of the regions, including the NCR, raised the FLW index in the Philippines to 6.4 percent from 0.4 percent; in the NCR, the FLW index rose to 11.6 percent from -0.5 percent and in AONCR, to 3.6 percent from 0.9 percent.

The monthly growth rate of the services index for the Philippines eased to 1.0 percent from 1.4 percent. In the NCR it stood at 1.1 percent, against 2.1 percent the month before; in AONCR, it eased to 0.9 percent from 1.0 percent. This was mainly due to slower price gains in gasoline and diesel seen in many regions.

The highest pace of the annual inflation rate was in Caraga at 6.3 percent while the lowest was in Eastern Visayas at 3.4 percent.

On a monthly basis, ARMM posted the lowest growth rate with negative 0.3 percent, while Calabarzon posted the highest at 1.1 percent together with five other regions.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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