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India food inflation softens

NEW DELHI, Jan 20, 2011 – India said Thursday that annual food inflation eased marginally for a second straight week after surging to nearly 18 percent last month, providing relief to consumers and policymakers.

Food inflation, measured on a weekly basis, fell to 15.52 percent for the week ending January 8 from a year earlier, according to commerce ministry figures.

That was down from the 16.91 percent rise recorded in the preceding week.

The drop comes at a time when India\’s central bank is considering hiking interest rates to contain annual inflation, which is running at 8.43 percent, driven by rises in the cost of food, fuel and commodities.

Controlling inflation, especially soaring food prices, has become a major headache for the left-leaning Congress-led government.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh forecast Wednesday inflation would be brought under control soon.

"There are certain factors which are beyond our control (but) despite the problem, I am confident that we will be able to bring about price stability by March," he said after announcing a minor cabinet reshuffle.

Onions are selling for up to 80 rupees ($1.75) a kilogram — turning the vegetable into an unaffordable luxury for India\’s poor — while prices of other vegetables have also surged.

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