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Inflation softens in March

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Headline inflation softened to 5.3% in March, down from 5.6% in February after climbing for the first two months of the year.

Statistics South Africa said inflation has trended in a range between 5% and 6% since September 2023.

Chief director for price statistics, Patrick Kelley, said the categories with the highest annual price changes in March were miscellaneous goods and services, education, health and housing and utilities.

He said Stats SA surveys education fees annually in March, noting that the overall cost of education was 6.3% more expensive in 2024, than in 2023 when it went up by 5.57%.

"This is the highest increase since 2020 when it rose by 6.4%. High schools recorded the largest education increase in 2024, up 7.3%, followed by creches increasing by 6%.

"Primary schools and tertiary institutions were both up by 5.9%. University boarding is on average 8.2% more expensive than it was a year ago," Kelley said.

Meanwhile, he said inflation for food and non-alcoholic beverages slowed to 5.1% in March from 6.1% in February.

"This is down from is recent peak of 14% in March 2023, and the lowest annual increase since September 2020, when the rate was 8.3%," Kelley said.

He said the cost of breads and cereals registered lower at 5% from 6.1% in February.

"Breaf flour, pasta, rusks, maize meal, ready mix flour and white bread are all cheaper than they were a year ago. Annual inflation for meat was 0.8%, down from 1.5% in February, on the back of lower beef and mutton prices.

"Inflation for sugar, sweets and desserts was 17.8%. The rate has remained above the 15% level since June 2023," he said.

Kelley said products with the largest annual price increases, included brown sugar, up 22%, white sugar, with a 20.1% increase and chocolate slabs rose 17.9%.

"Alcohol and tobacco price rises were fueled by annual increases in excise taxes. The index increased by a monthly 1.9% in March, the highest monthly rise since March last year when tax increases led to a 2.2% monthly rise," he said.

Kelley said prices increased by 4.5% overall in the 12 months to March.