Dr Debesh Roy, Chairman, InsPIRE
India’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation fell sharply from 5.3% in August 2021 to 4.35% in September 2021, coming closer to RBI’s medium-term inflation target of 4%, and continuing its declining trend for the fourth consecutive month (Figure 1). A sharp decline in food inflation was primarily responsible for the decline in general inflation. While rural inflation dropped to 4.13% in September from 5.28% in the previous month, urban inflation declined from 5.32% to 4.57%. The retail inflation trend for the first half of FY22 reveals a sharp rise from 4.23% in April to 6.3% in May, before tapering to 6.26% and 5.59% in June and July, respectively.
The RBI in its latest Monetary Policy on 8 October 2021 had sharply reduced the outlook for CPI inflation during FY22 from 5.7% projected in the previous MPC meeting (04-06 August 2021) to 5.3%. However, the IMF in its October 2021 issue of World Economic Outlook raised its inflation projection for India from 4.9% estimated in April to 5.6%, citing growing worldwide inflationary risks.
The main cause for the decline in retail inflation in September is the sharp easing of food inflation (Figure 2). The Consumer Food Price Inflation (CFPI) declined steadily from 5.15% in June 2021 to 3.96% in July and 3.11% in August, before it fell sharply to 0.68% in September. Sharp decline in inflation was observed in respect of vegetables (-11.68% to -22.47%) and eggs (16.33% to 7.06%). Inflation for cereals continued to be negative at -0.61%. However, inflation for edible oils (34.19%) and non-alcoholic beverages (12.99%), remained elevated.
Fuel inflation increased from 12.95% to 13.63%, due to continuous rise in international crude oil prices. Core inflation, which excludes food and fuel prices, however, rose from 5.5% in August to 5.8% in September.
Further easing of food inflation in the coming months due to good kharif harvest, and favourable base effect, will keep inflation benign. This would give enough leeway to the RBI to continue with the accommodative stance, at least till April 2022 monetary policy review. However, inflation risks remain high due to elevated international commodity prices, including crude oil prices. Further, price pressures could intensify due to the second-round effects of high fuel costs, resulting in higher prices of other goods, after a time lag.
India’s WPI inflation declined to 10.66% in September, the lowest in six months, from 11.39% in August (Figure 3). However, the continued high WPI inflation was on account of high inflation of manufactured products (weight of 64.2%) in May, June, July, August and September at 11.25% 10.96%, 11.2%, 11.39% and 11.41%, respectively.
It is evident that cost push pressures are gradually seeping into prices of manufactured goods, due to increase in manufacturing activities in the post-pandemic situation. The highest inflation was observed in case of crude petroleum and natural gas at 59.5%, 46.97%, 40.28%, 40.03% and 43.92%, respectively, during the last five months, due to steady increase in the international price of crude oil.
Fuel and power inflation at 36.74%, 29.32%, 26.02%, 26.09% and 24.81 respectively in May, June, July, August and September. The decline in WPI inflation was due to reduction in food inflation from -1.29% in August to -4.69% in September, 2021.
Price volatility in the international markets for crude oil and rising prices of edible oils and metal products would lead to further rise in WPI inflation, considering the fact that India is a price taker for most of these commodities.
There continues to be a divergence between CPI and WPI inflation (Figure 4) because of the nature of the price indices and higher weighting of food items in CPI (47.25% against 15.26% for WPI) and that of manufactured items in WPI (64.23%).