Prices in February rose 3.6 percent from January, the INDEC national statistics bureau revealed Thursday, a slight slowing from the preceding two months.
Nevertheless, the steep monthly increase means that inflation totalled 7.8 percent in just the first two months of 2021 in Argentina, casting a shadow over President Alberto Fernández’s hopes of tampering down runaway price rises.
Prices have risen 40.7 percent over the past 12 months, INDEC said, a period in which price controls have been enforced on select items and the economy stalled heavily as restrictions were imposed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Once again, food and non-alcoholic beverages recorded high price rises, at a rate of 3.8 percent in February (compared to 4.8 percent the preceding month), with analysts noting sharp increases in fruits, vegetables and legumes, as well as oils, fats and butters.
The sector that recorded the highest rises were restaurants and hotels, up 5.3 percent as eating and drinking establishments hiked prices. Transport, meanwhile, was up 4.8 percent.
Alcoholic beverages and tobacco were up 3.6 percent in February, while recreation and culture recorded a rate of 2.3 percent.
Communications recorded a 1.8 percent rise, a sharp slowing on January’s increase of 15.1 percent, after operators were forced to rollback prices by government regulators. The lowest figure was seen in education, which rose only 0.1 percent.
In a statement the Economy Ministry highlighted that February’s rate showed a deceleration in prices from December 2020 and January 2021, though it indicated there was still work to be done.
According to the most recent Central Bank survey of private economists, conducted early March, prices are projected to raise 48.1 percent this year. That was a decrease of 1.9 points compared to expectations at the end of January.
“The data [of 3.6 percent] is relatively positive compared to where it came from, because [Economy Minister Martin Guzman’s goal [of 29 percent for the year] is way off. Yet 3.6 percent is a high number,” Matías Rajnerman, an economist for Ecolatina told Perfil.
ACM economist Juan Pablo Di Iorio commented that "in February there was a slowdown in inflation due to fewer relative price adjustments, as well as a lower rate of devaluation."
However, the analyst emphasised that "seasonal factors, such as tourism and inflationary inertia, led to the slowdown being minimal."
Argentina's economy has been in recession since 2018 and was hit severely by the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, inflation hit 36.1 percent, following a rate of 53.8 percent in 2019.