Inflation Jumps in May; Peppers to Blame

YERUSHALAYIM -

Inflation in Israel overall remains low, although some items, like peppers, shot up in price during May, new numbers from the Central Bureau of Statistics show. That contributed to a relatively high monthly jump in the inflation rate of 0.7%. The inflation rate over the past 12 months was 1.5%.

This is the fourth month in a row prices rose, after increases in the inflation rate in February, March and April. But those increases were minuscule – 0.3% or less – compared to May’s increase. The biggest increases were in fresh fruit, which rose 10.2%, and clothing, which was up 7.8%. The latter’s increase was due to the introduction of new spring and summer lines, but those prices were expected to go down already in June, as chains begin to get rid of the summer merchandise to make way for the fall.

The increase in fruits – and to a lesser extent in vegetables, which rose 3.8% – was due to the wet winter and the late rains, which ruined part of the crop of spring fruits that were set to hit the market. Among vegetables, the standout for price increases was the pepper crop, with the price of both red and green peppers jumping 20.8% in May alone. Among fruits, the cost of grapes – usually a spring and summer standard in Israel – was up 40% compared to the price in October 2018, the end of last year’s grape season. Compared to last summer, watermelons were up 30%. With that, tomato prices went down 6.3% in May.

Housing prices were up as well. Prices of apartments were up 0.5% in March and April over the level in the previous two months. During the same period in 2018, the increase was 0.1%. Prices in the north rose 3.5% during March and April, after rising 2.9% in January and February. Prices were also up in March and April in the south (2%), and in the Haifa area (1.7%). Prices in the center and in Tel Aviv, meanwhile, were down for the period, by 0.3% and 0.6% respectively. The housing price index incorporates prices for new and secondhand apartments and homes, and is computed separately from the consumer price index.