After months of skyrocketing tomato and vegetable prices, retail inflation eased to 4.87 per cent in October, much to the common man’s relief. This is according to the numbers put out by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation on Monday. While the CPI inflation figures nationwide were at a four-month low, in three States — Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, the retail inflation figures remained higher than the national average every month in 2023, until October.
A closer look at the inflation data from January to October shows that in most of the months, retail inflation was driven by cereals. In June, September and October, pulses too saw a high inflation rate.
The cereal inflation, particularly, the high prices of wheat seems to have impacted these three States. The country has been grappling with a very high increase in the price of wheat since the beginning of the year. It was ₹3,000 per quintal in parts of the country in January 2023, almost 35 per cent higher than the rate in January 2022. The prices only fell in August 2023, after the Centre released 50 lakh tonnes of additional wheat in the market. Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are States where a large number of people consume wheat.
Vegetable prices were responsible for driving up prices in July and August this year. This component too hit these three States hard, for they have the highest proportion of the vegetarian population. In October, the government hiked the minimum support price for six rabi crops. For wheat, the hike was ₹150 per quintal, the highest hike since 2014.
Rajasthan’s fear factor
Inflation has been a problem that the incumbent Rajasthan government seems to be struggling with. To ease the situation, in the FY24 budget, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who also holds the Finance portfolio announced a ₹19,000-crore inflation package. The package included the supply of free food packets every month to poor families, LPG cylinders at ₹500 each to the below poverty line families and the Prime Minister’s Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries, free electricity up to 100 units per month to 1.19 crore domestic consumers, and continuation of VAT concession on fuel. However, the state’s inflation continues to remain among the highest in the country.
The inflation in October was driven mainly by cereals and products. While this component carries a weight of 9.67, the inflation rate here was 10.65 per cent.
Apart from Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, six other States clocked inflation rates higher than the national average. In October, Odisha had the highest retail inflation rate in the country — 6.47 per cent. The other States with higher retail inflation rates are Bihar, Karnataka, Punjab, Telangana and Gujarat.