Finance Minister withholds new plans to address cost of living, but CP index confirms further increases in food prices

Although the Budget Speech failed to tell residents how the Government intends to address the high cost of living, the most recently released Consumer Price Index (CPI) – for January 2023 – shows that things are not getting any better.

Last week, Prime Minister Gaston Browne acknowledged that the Russia-Ukraine war continues to create disruptions in the international market, causing high costs and product shortages locally.

In response, he said, his administration would continue its strategic interventions to keep down costs; maintain the social programmes now in place; and introduce new ones as necessary.

However, the prime minister did not expound upon any of these measures.

In the meantime, the Statistics Division, which falls within the prime minister’s ambit, released the CPI for January 2023 on Tuesday, March 7.

According to that report, the All Items Index increased by 6.9% for the 12 months ending January this year.  The index for food and non-alcoholic beverages represented 29.7% of the overall All Item Index increase.

The Food Index rose 11.7% and contributed 93.2% to the Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages index increase.

The Division reports that all nine food sub-categories rose over the last 12 months.  The index for vegetables, while increasing 11.6% over the year, had the largest contribution of 23.0% on food inflation.

The change, the Division says, was primarily impacted by an 18.1% increase in the index for fresh and chilled vegetables.

The index for meats and meat products had the second largest impact on food inflation, rising 13.1%, and contributed 19.7% to food inflation.

The index for poultry contributed 53.1% of the Meat and Meat Products index increase.

The index for All Items Less Food and Energy rose 6.0%.

Howeverwhile the Year-on-Year Analysis showed increases, the Monthly Consumer Price Index declined 0.5% for the month ending January 2023.

The index for food and non-alcoholic beverages decreased by 0.3%, while the Food Index declined by 0.5% in January, after a 1.1% increase in December 2022, the Division says.

According to the Division, in January the major supermarket food group indexes had mixed results – with five increases and four decreases.

The index increases ranged from 0.2% (for oils and fats) to 4.2% (for milk, cheese, and eggs).