WHILE food price increases have been above the historical average since early last year, they have been steadily coming down in recent months, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) yesterday.
Food prices were 2.4 per cent higher last month compared with the same month last year, but were down from January's 3.8 per cent year-on-year figure for food.
The average for the first four months of this year was 2.9 per cent, well above the historical rate of 2 per cent.
The culprit was a 'sharp rise in global food commodity prices', the MTI said, which spiked 22.8 per cent on average last year.
'Robust consumption demand from emerging economies came up against widespread supply disruptions caused by the La Nina weather phenomenon,' it said.
Singapore's food inflation was nowhere near as bad, in part thanks to the appreciation of the Singapore dollar, economists said.
'Our stronger dollar has helped to cap imported food costs. At the same time, given the favourable planting conditions in Malaysia, vegetable prices were also lower,' said Barclays Capital economist Leong Wai Ho.
Food occupies the biggest portion of the average family's consumption expenses after housing rentals, the MTI noted.
An average household spends around a fifth, or nearly $1,000, of its $4,388 monthly expenditure on food.
But whether a family experiences high or low food inflation naturally depends on what they eat and where. For instance, seafood prices went up 4.9 per cent last month while vegetable prices remained flat. Restaurant food also became 4.1 per cent dearer.
Conversely, 'food court prices fell for the first time in two years, possibly reflecting the exit of more expensive hawker stalls which were replaced by others in the same hawker centres', Mr Leong noted.