Households squeezed as weekly inflation accelerates; more pain coming

Andaleeb Rizvi
Saturday, Jan 28, 2023

KARACHI: Weekly inflation surged 0.45 percent during the seven-day period ended January 26, forcing Pakistanis to dig deeper to pay for food and energy, and analysts said inflation is poised to accelerate further in weeks ahead as massive rupee devaluation will drive up the costs of petroleum products and other commodities.

Sensitive price indicator (SPI) went up 0.45 percent week-on-week and 32.57 percent year-on-year, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) data showed on Friday.

The PBS attributed the WoW rise in SPI to the increase in prices of onions (5.51 percent), rice irri-6/9 (4.51 percent), tomatoes (4.18 percent), bananas (3.57 percent), broken basmati rice (3.56 percent), garlic (3.47 percent), wheat flour (1.81 percent), pulse gram (1.74 percent), pulse moong (1.38 percent) and non-food item, LPG (5.29 percent). Decrease was recorded in the prices of potatoes (4.47 percent), chicken (1.63 percent), gur (0.90 percent), sugar (0.85 percent), powdered milk (0.26 percent) and vegetable ghee 2.5kg (0.08 percent).

Fahad Rauf, head of research at Ismail Iqbal Securities, attributed the increase in SPI to mainly onions and LPG.

Onion prices have increased because of import restrictions, as according to news reports, more than 100 containers of onions have been stuck at the port. Since the occurrence of floods, onion prices have been highly volatile; however, the prices would come down in the coming weeks as the SBP has recently relaxed import restrictions to some extent.

“We estimate January 2023 CPI (consumer price index) at 26.7 percent vs 24.5 percent in December 2022,” Rauf noted.

Price of 11.67kg LPG cylinder increased 5.29 percent WoW and 24.12 percent YoY to stand at Rs2,888.11 up Rs145.19 from Rs2,742.92 last week, and up Rs561.98 from Rs2,326.93 last year. LPG consumers in Peshawar paid the highest average price for a cylinder at Rs3,267.6. The weightage of the kitchen fuel stands at 0.6145 percent for the lowest quintile, and 1.4370 for the combined group.

PBS data attributes different weightages to the commodities in the SPI basket. For the group with the lowest spending capacity, commodities with the highest weights include milk (17.5449 percent), electricity (8.3627 percent), wheat flour (6.1372 percent), sugar (5.1148 percent), firewood (5.0183 percent), long cloth (4.2221 percent), and vegetable ghee (3.2833 percent).

Among these, prices of wheat flour, firewood and vegetable ghee 1kg went up; sugar and vegetable ghee 2.5kg went down; whereas prices of milk, electricity and long cloth remained the same.

Wheat flour price has been surging since the week-ended November 24, 2022 when it was Rs1,509.83/bag. Since then, the essential commodity’s average price has risen by Rs224.82/bag.

During the week ended January 27 last year, the price was Rs1,166.48/20kg bag as per PBS data. This shows that the average price of a wheat flour bag weighing 20kg has increased by Rs568.17 for consumers. On YoY basis, this shows a 48.71 percent hike in the price of the essential commodity, as it now stands at Rs1,734.65/bag.

Residents of Khuzdar continued to pay the highest amount for a 20kg wheat flour bag at Rs2,806.65; however, the price was the same as last week.

For the groups spending up to Rs17,732; Rs17,733-22,888; Rs22,889-29,517; Rs29,518-44,175; and above Rs44,175; WoW SPI increased 0.41, 0.38, 0.42, 0.41, and 0.54 percent, respectively. On YoY basis, for these groups, SPI recorded an increase of 31.11, 31.75, 33.62, 34.65, and 32.75 percent, respectively. This showed that on WoW basis, SPI had the highest impact on those spending more than Rs44,175, whereas the YoY impact was faced the most by those whose spending capacities were between Rs29,518 and Rs44,175.

SPI was recorded at 221.54 points against 220.54 points registered last week and 167.11 points recorded during the week ended January 27, 2022.