Although the consumer price inflation rate fell to the 2% range in the new year, fruit prices are still high and international oil prices have recently shown unstable trends, leading to predictions that the rate of increase will increase again in the first half of the year.

According to the National Statistics Portal of the National Statistical Office, food prices rose 6.0% last month compared to a year ago.

This is more than twice the overall consumer price increase of 2.8%.

Food price inflation has been in the 6% range for four months. Although the consumer price inflation rate last month fell 0.4% point from the previous month (3.2%), food prices only fell 0.1% point.

Food prices are led by the prices of fruits such as apples and pears.

Last month, fruit prices rose 26.9%, the largest increase since January 2011 (31.2%).

The contribution of fruit prices to the overall inflation rate (2.8%) was 0.4%p, the highest since January 2011.

The main reason for the high price of fruit is the shortage of supply due to abnormal temperatures last year.

Some fruits, such as apples, are not easy to import due to concerns about the spread of pests and diseases, so fruit prices are likely to remain strong until summer fruit shipments.

Other food prices are also high.

Milk, cheese, and eggs rose 4.9%, vegetables, seaweed 8.1%, and snacks, ice cream, and sugar 5.8%, exceeding the overall inflation rate last month.

Recently, international oil prices have also become increasingly uncertain.

The price of Dubai oil, which fell to $77.3 per barrel in December last year, rose to $82.4 due to growing unrest in the Middle East, including the recent attack on a U.S. military base in Jordan by pro-Iranian militants.

Previously, Choi Sang-mok, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategy and Finance, predicted at a price-related ministerial meeting held immediately after the announcement of consumer prices in January on the 2nd, "Prices in February and March may rise again to around 3%."

Kim Woong, Assistant Governor of the Bank of Korea, also mentioned oil price instability and high living costs, and said, "As the price slowdown slows down for the time being, we cannot rule out the possibility that the consumer price inflation rate will rise somewhat temporarily."

(Photo = Yonhap News)