Sri Lanka’s food and commodities prices rose 3.5 percent during the 12 months to May as higher food prices mostly pushed up the index that measures the national level prices. However, it eased from 3.6 percent in April.
The behaviour in food and non-food prices under Sri Lanka’s National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) mirrored the Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI) in May where the prices of most of the food varieties climbed up while the non-food prices too followed suit with the monthly fuel price hike sending the prices of the transport subcategory up the most.
CCPI was sharply up from 4.5 percent to 5.0 percent in May, but the NCPI takes into account the expenditure of all households in the country with provincial weightings making it a lagging indicator to the CCPI. Meanwhile, under the NCPI, the so-called core prices, measured leaving out the often volatile items such as food and energy, rose by 6.3 percent in May from a year ago, similar to the rise in April.
A close look at the food basket under the NCPI showed that the food price growth had accelerated by 2.1 percent in May on a month-on-month (MoM) basis from 0.9 percent in April although on a year-on-year (YoY) basis the prices had fallen to 0.4 percent from 1.2 percent decline in April.
The MoM change in prices enables one to observe a significant change between the two months in the prices where prices of vegetables, fresh fish, lime, potatoes, milk powder and dried fish had risen markedly in May among others from April.
Meanwhile, coconut, eggs, papaw and banana among others had recoded marked decreases in prices from April, but were unable to outweigh the items of which prices rose.
Non-food inflation on MoM rose by 0.3 percent from 0.6 percent in April while it rose by 6.7 percent YoY, decelerating from 7.5 percent in April.
Under non-food category, the fuel price hike in May had a sizeable bearing on the transport subcategory and thereby the non-food inflation.
Under non-food, all subcategories including transport, health, clothing and footwear, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and narcotics, recreation and culture and restaurants and hotels recorded an uptick in separate indexes during May.
While the rising healthcare cost may deny the people access to quality healthcare, rising cost of recreation and cultural activities may deny them access to such activities which are key to developing empathy, instilling reciprocal obligations and moral wellbeing, which are crucial ingredients for a tolerant and neutral society.
However, when a population is in a constant struggle to make their ends meet in an economy where food prices rise at exponential levels, everything else becomes secondary at a huge social cost.