Food inflation remained in the negative zone for the third straight week, at minus 0.42 per cent for the week ended January 7, 2012 mainly due to fall in prices of onion and vegetables.

Food inflation, as measured by the Wholesale Price Index (WPI), was at minus 2.90 per cent in the previous week. It was above 16 per cent in the corresponding week of 2011.

According to the official data released on Thursday, onion prices were lower steeply by 75.42 per cent year-on-year during the week under review, while potato prices were down by 23.84 per cent. Prices of wheat also fell by 3.57 per cent.

Overall, vegetables were 45.81 per cent cheaper during the week under review than in the same period last year.

Other food products, led by protein-based items, became more expensive on an annual basis.

Pulses prices were 14.27 per cent higher during the week under review, while milk grew dearer by 11.48 per cent. Egg, meat and fish prices were up 19.64 per cent year-on-year.

Fruits also became 10.03 per cent more expensive on an annual basis, while cereal prices were up 2.26 per cent.

Inflation in the overall primary articles category stood at 2.47 per cent during the week ended January 7, 2012 against 0.51 per cent in the previous week. Primary articles have over 20 per cent weight in the wholesale price index.

Experts feel that the decline in food inflation, along with moderation in headline inflation during December 2011, will be a major incentive for the Reserve Bank to look at the option of cuts in key interest rates in the near future.

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