THE country's inflation rate further increased to 4.3 percent in March 2018, breaching the government's full-year target of 2.0 to 4.0 percent, as prices of commodities continued to accelerate.

Inflation rates in January and February were recorded at 3.1 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) announced Thursday, April 5, that higher rates were noted in seven commodity groups, as follows: food and non-alcoholic beverages (5.9 percent): alcoholic beverages and tobacco (18.6 percent): housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (2.9 percent); furnishing, household equipment and routine maintenance of the house (2.7 percent); health (2.4 percent); communication (0.3 percent); and restaurant and miscellaneous goods and services (3 percent).

Read: Summary Inflation Report

Earlier, the PSA traced the rising prices of commodities to the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) law.

Given the uptick in inflation, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said in a statement that government must continue to be proactive in maintaining price stability and cushioning the impact of higher consumer prices on the poor.

Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon, who is officer-in-charge of Neda while Secretary Ernesto Pernia is on official foreign travel, noted price pressures especially on rice and other agricultural food items.

The Neda statement noted that prices of rice rose by 3.6 percent in March, from 2.8 percent in February. Farm gate prices of palay, unhusked rice, have been on an upward trend since the second week of January, which in part, contributed to higher wholesale and retail prices of rice.

The country's rice inventory dropped to 1,795.78 thousand metric tons (MT) as of February 1, 2018. This already includes stocks from households, commercial warehouses, and National Food Authority (NFA) warehouses.

Edillon said a shipment of 250,000 MT of imported rice is due to arrive in May and is expected to boost the NFA inventory.

But she said " this will not be able to meet the country’s rice demand in the succeeding months."

Edillon stressed the urgency to fast-track the amendments to Republic Act 8178, or the Agricultural Tariffication Act, which will remove the quantitative restrictions on rice importation and eventually open imports to private traders and allow the NFA to focus on ensuring buffer stocks for rice.

“Without this measure, containing food inflation pressures will be a challenge given the diminishing rice stocks,” Edillon said. (Marites Villamor-Ilano/SunStar Philippines)