China's inflation rate accelerated at an astonishing pace to hit a near 12-year high as the country's worst snowstorms in five decades have disrupted food and power supplies, the National Statistics Bureau announced this morning.
The consumer price index, the main gauge of inflation, hit a year-on-year increase of 8.7 percent in February, surpassing January's 11-year high of 7.1 percent, to post the biggest monthly jump since May 1996 when the rate was 8.9 percent, the bureau said.
Economists had expected an inflation rate of eight percent last month.
The CPI grew 8.5 percent in urban areas and 9.2 percent in rural areas in February, the bureau said.
Food costs, accounting for a third of the CPI basket, has been the main driver of soaring inflation growth since early last year after increasing costs of food stocks pushed up meat prices.
Food prices surged 23.3 percent year on year last month. Within the category, meat and poultry prices soared 45.3 percent last month. Egg costs surged six percent and grain costs were also up six percent.
The cost of pork, the nation's staple meat, increased 63.4 percent last month from a year ago while cooking oil prices rose 41 percent.
The inflation rise will add more pressure on the government to prevent price increases from spreading beyond food.
China is still facing "very big pressure" to curb rising prices, National Bureau of Statistics Director Xie Fuzhan said at the weekend in Beijing, where he is attending the annual National People's Congress meetings.