The coronavirus outbreak is driving up the cost of food — and almost everything else in China — adding to the pressure on household budgets.
China’s consumer price inflation hit 5.4% in January, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics on Monday. Prices rose last month at their fastest rate since October 2011, when China was battling to control months of soaring inflation.
Food, which makes up nearly a third of spending by Chinese consumers, is spiking the most. Pork — a mainstay in the Chinese diet that is already under pressure because of a devastating pig disease — skyrocketed a staggering 116% compared to a year ago. Vegetables were 17% more expensive.Other items saw modest price rises by comparison: Health care was 2.3% more expensive, for example, while clothing prices rose 0.6%.
The statistics bureau acknowledged the role coronavirus played in causing prices to surge. In a statement, it attributed the increase to the outbreak and to the Lunar New Year holiday, which was observed in January this year rather than February, as it was in 2019.
Economists at Citi blamed the price surge on the way the coronavirus has disrupted production and transport links.
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