Argentina’s inflation rate accelerated to a whopping 8.4 percent in April – the highest monthly rate of President Alberto Fernández’s government to date.
According to official data published by the INDEC national statistics bureau on Friday, inflation over the last 12 months now totals 108.8 percent, with prices up 32 percent in just the first four months of the year.
The rate outpaced the estimates of most analysts. Experts consulted by the Central Bank for its monthly survey of market expectations had forecast a rate of 7.5 percent. The same poll now predicts an annual rate of 126.4 percent.
April’s hikes were led by clothing and footwear (up 10.8 percent in the month), followed by food and non-alcoholic beverages (10.1 percent), which INDEC said had the greatest impact across all regions.
The highest increases in the latter category were recorded in vegetables and pulses, milk, dairy products and eggs, sugar and candy, and meat and its derivatives. Tomatoes rose 63.4 percent in just the last calendar month, with eggs soaring 20.8 percent in just a month and chicken up 26.4 percent.
Other notable increases were seen in restaurants and hotels (9.9 percent) and household equipment and maintenance (8.6 percent).
Recreation and culture rose 7.5 percent, with goods and services rising 6.6 percent. Health recorded the same figure, with transport (6.5 percent) and communications (6.3 percent) close behind.
The two sectors with the lowest hikes in April were education (up five percent) and alcoholic beverages and tobacco (3.8 percent).
Core inflation was 8.4 percent, said INDEC, with regulated prices up 4.9 percent and seasonal products soaring 12.6 percent. In the geographical breakdown, the largest hikes were seen in Greater Buenos Aires at 8.6 percent.
Argentina, which is in the grip of financial turbulence and is likely to enter recession in the coming months, is struggling to find answers in its never-ending battle with runaway price hikes. Sweeping price-control schemes, agreements with producers and tight currency controls have failed to tamp down inflation.
In 2022, inflation reached 94.8 percent, the country's highest annual figure since 1991, when it exceeded 171 percent.
Consultancy firms this week observed that food prices had risen by almost four percent in the second week of May alone, implying that price hikes may accelerate further in the months ahead.
Speaking earlier on Friday, President Fernández acknowledged that Argentina has “a very serious problem with inflation,” describing it as “difficult to manage.”
"There are many causes,” said the Peronist leader, who went on to cite turbulence on parallel exchange markets, “speculation that there may be a devaluation” and the alleged phenomenon of “psychological inflation,” which he said originated from small and medium traders.
Those remarks were ridiculed by some opposition leaders, with Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta saying he was "stunned" by the president's remarks.
"Talk of 'psychological inflation' is disrespectful to Argentines who could not pay their rent, who could not pay their health insurance or prepaid premiums, or who had to change their children's schools,” said the mayor, who intends to run for the Presidency.
“I'm stunned, amazed, that the president has said such an outrageous thing. It's disrespectful," concluded Rodríguez Larreta.
Voters in Argentina say high inflation is their top issue ahead of the presidential election in October.
On top of its battle with inflation, the country is also dealing with a strong depreciation of its currency. The peso stood at 238.5 to the dollar at the official rate Friday, but 474 on the parallel black market.
The country's economic problems have been worsened by the impact of a severe drought on its farming and livestock sectors, the largest source of foreign exchange.
The International Monetary Fund has forecast growth of 0.2 percent in 2023.