Higher prices of milk, fruits and pulses pushed food inflation to 17.70 per cent for the week ended March 27, fueling expectations that RBI may further tighten rates in its annual monetary policy on April 20.
Food inflation in the previous week stood at 16.35 per cent. With prices of essential items rising and fears of food inflation spreading to manufactured goods, the overall inflation for March, data for which is expected next week, is likely to cross the double-digit mark.
The overall inflation, which includes variation in prices of food and non-food items, was 9.89 per cent in February.
On an annual basis, pulses became dearer by 32.60 per cent, milk by 21.12 per cent, fruits 14.95 and wheat by 13.34 per cent.
On a weekly basis, the index for food articles rose by 0.9 per cent as fish marine, milk, fruits, masur and vegetables became costlier.
In a bid to rein in inflation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is holding a meeting of the core committee of Chief Ministers with representations from 10 states and senior Cabinet ministers later in the day.
The core group of chief ministers, set up in February, comprises Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Besides CMs, the other members of the committee are Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
To check inflation from spreading to non-food items, the RBI last month raised key short-term lending and borrowing (repo and the reverse repo) rates by 25 basis points to five per cent and 3.5 per cent, respectively.
General inflation has already surpassed RBI's March end projection of 8.5 per cent.
Recently, RBI governor D Subbarao had also said that the apex bank will continue its exit from monetary stimulus policy to check high inflation and ensure sustainable growth.