Retail inflation dropped to a four-month low of 5.91% in March from 6.58% in the previous month, government data released on Monday showed. This will increase Reserve Bank of India’s chance to ease interest rates further to encourage economic activity amid the nation-wide lockdown to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Retail inflation in urban areas stood at 5.66% in March and in rural areas it was 6.09%.
The drop was due to fall in vegetable prices. Vegetables inflation stood at 18.63% in March against 31.61% in February. The rate was also slower in fruit prices as well as pulses and related products. However, the inflation in milk and products was slightly higher in March over February.
Inflation in food and beverages eased to 7.82% from 9.45% in February. Meanwhile, fuel and light inflation was marginally higher at 6.59% in March from 6.36% in February. Clothing and footwear inflation stood at 2.11% compared with 2.05% in February. Household goods and services inflation stood at 1.81% against 1.88% in February.
The government also stated that the field work for price collection of Consumer Price Index was suspended from March 19 because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Till then, about 66% of price quotations were received,” it added in the statement. “The remaining quotations were assessed on the basis of well-established and internationally accepted methodology and practices.”
Last week, the RBI had said that the outlook for India’s economic recovery has been sharply altered by the coronavirus outbreak, and revised its CPI inflation estimate to 4.8% in the June quarter and 4.4% in the September quarter. The central bank, for its part, had cut interest rates by 75 basis points to 4.4%, in an emergency meeting on March 27 and has taken steps to shore up liquidity, in line with most major central banks around the world.
RBI governor Shaktikanta Das has said the central bank will not shy away from using “any instrument” necessary to revive growth and preserve financial stability to mitigate the adverse economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.