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China inflation continues to surge
Consumer prices hit near 12-year-high in February, driven by soaring food costs.
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2008 08:12 GMT

Chinese consumers face soaring prices
for daily basics [GALLO/GETTY]

China's inflation rate hit a near 12-year high last month officials have said, with the government calling for a "cool-headed" response to one of the country's most pressing economic concerns.

 

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, inflation in February hit 12.8 per cent, the steepest rise in consumer prices since May 1996.

The figures released on Tuesday made the government's official target for the year of 4.8 per cent an even more distant prospect.

 

Breaking the figures down, food prices - the main driver of inflation - were up 23.3 per cent from a year earlier, according to the bureau.

The price of pork, a staple meat for millions of Chinese, soared 63.4 per cent.

 

Officials have blamed the steep rises on China's worst winter weather in half a century, which hit food crops hard and cut supply routes.

 

By contrast, non-food prices increased by a mere 1.6 per cent in February from a year earlier.

 

Target

 

In an unusual comment on its own data, the statistics bureau called for a calm reaction which followed a rise in the consumer price index of 7.1 per cent in January.

 

"We must remain cool-headed, assess the situation correctly and adopt efficient measures in order to conscientiously keep the overall price level from rising too fast," it said.

 

In an address to parliament last week, Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, said the government's inflation target for 2008 was 4.8 per cent.

 

"The current price hikes and increasing inflationary pressures are the biggest concern of the people," Wen said.

 

For China's communist rulers, inflation is of particular concern because it threatens to lead to social unrest and fuel anger at the government, as was the case in the lead-up to the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.

Source:
Agencies
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