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Cypriots still grappling with inflation woes

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Consumers in Cyprus are still grappling with the lingering effects of previous inflation surges, despite a slowdown in the inflation rate to its lowest level in three years this March. The cost of living remains a challenge, standing at an average of 14% higher than four years ago when the COVID pandemic began.

On Thursday, the statistical service Cystat reported a decline in the Consumer Price Index for March, with the rate of inflation dropping to 1.2%, down from 1.8% in February and 5.8% in March 2023.

The record high for the island was in July 2022 rising to 10.6%.

However, casting our minds back to March 2020, when the Covid pandemic first struck the island, pushing it into its first lockdown, the inflation rate was a mere 0.1%, slightly above the deflation threshold, indicating zero inflationary trend in the market.

A comparison of the March 2024 CPI with that of March 2020 reveals an average price increase of 13.9% over the four-year period, according to a Philenews data compilation.

The food price index saw an even steeper rise, jumping by 15.8%, with certain items such as olive oil doubling in price over the same period. Olive oil saw the biggest increase, soaring by 96.4% from March 2020 to March 2024.

Supply chain disruption

Products like olive oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil, already impacted by disruptions in the supply chain following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, witnessed even greater price hikes. Margarine and other vegetable oils saw a 31.2% increase over four years, while oils and fats surged by 48.6%, and other edible oils rose by 49.6% from March 2020.

The second largest price increase in food, after olive oil, was sugar, which spiked by 59.2%.

Cystat data indicates that from March 2020 to March 2024, beef and veal prices rose by 32%, lamb and goat meat by 42%, pork by 18.3%, with poultry experiencing a more modest increase of 5.7%.

Inflation also impacted the prices of staple food items, with bread increasing by 16.8% over the four-year period, rice by 27.3%, and bakery and pastry products by 22.1%.

The price of full-fat fresh milk rose by an average of 12.4%, low-fat milk by 11.1%, preserved milk by 28.5%, yoghurt by 10.3%, cheese by 17.2%, and eggs by 33.8% over the same period.

Other agricultural products also saw noticeable increases, with fruit and vegetable prices rising by 9% on average from March 2020 to March 2024, and potatoes increasing by 21.3%. Additionally, the price of coffee rose by 22.1%, carbonated drinks, sodas, and juices by 25.9%, and soft drinks by 26.6%.

Over the four-year period under review, the price of diesel fuel increased by 25.7%, gasoline by 20.8%, while electricity prices surged by 35.8%.