Food prices as big a concern for consumers as energy bills.

ISLAMABAD -- As the inflation rate soars to 27.4% in August on the back of higher food and fuel prices, the Ministry of National Food Security on Friday attempted to downplay the sugar consumption figures by 125,562 metric tons apparently to hide anticipated shortages due to its export.

The stubbornly high grocery prices mean the cost of the monthly shop is now as big a concern for consumers as energy bills.

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) -- the national data collecting agency -- reported that the Consumer Price Index rose to 27.4% last month compared to a year ago.

This was the second month when the inflation reading remained far above the official target of 21% due to an administrative increase in the prices of electricity and fuel.

The higher prices of non-perishable food items and currency devaluation was also significantly contributing to the high inflation tide. The impact of a record Rs305 per liter petrol price is not yet captured in the inflation index.

People living in rural areas have been hit the most, as the average increase in the prices of goods and services that they used increased by 31% last month. The majority of the population still lives in rural areas.

Pakistan's annual inflation rate accelerated to the history's highest ever level of 38% in May due to supply shocks, currency devaluation and the absence of any checks on hoarding and profiteering.

The inflation rate jumped to 25.6% in the cities, according to the PBS. The food inflation jumped to 40.6% in rural areas and it remained at 88.8% in cities, according to the PBS.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Food Security in a statement clarified its position on the issue of the recent wave of price hike of sugar -- an attempt that has further messed up the issue.

The 'estimated monthly national consumption (of sugar) is 0.60 million metric tons per month', stated the press release. It added there are verified balance stocks of sugar of 1.815 million metric tons with the sugar mills (excluding the stocks in trade), which are sufficient till the start of next crushing season in November,2023 against the total requirement of 1.8 million metric tons till the end of November, 2023.

However, on August 28 -- hardly four days ago -- in a summary to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet, the Ministry of National Food Security stated that the monthly consumption was '641,854 per metric tons'.

Within three days, the ministry has understated the...

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