SEOUL, April 2 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s consumer prices grew at the fastest pace in 14 months in March as prices of farm and oil products advanced, data showed Friday, in the latest sign that inflationary pressure is building up in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

The consumer price index rose 1.5 percent on-year in March, accelerating from a 1.1 percent on-year gain in the previous month, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea.

It marked the fastest on-year rise since January last year, when the price index advanced 1.5 percent.

Compared with a month earlier, the index grew 0.1 percent last month, following a 0.5 percent on-month rise in February.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and oil prices, rose 0.6 percent on-year last month.

This file photo, taken March 18, 2021, shows a citizen looking at vegetables at a discount mart in central Seoul amid a sharp gain in prices of farm products. (Yonhap)

The country’s inflation remained subdued last year due to the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But recent increases in food and oil prices are spawning concerns that inflation may pick up amid economic slumps caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Policymakers said consumer prices are expected to temporarily pick up in the second quarter, affected by gains in food and oil prices.

Last month, prices of agricultural, livestock and fisheries products advanced 13.7 percent on-year due to a supply shortage and the outbreak of bird flu. Prices of farm products jumped 19.2 percent.

Prices of petroleum products rose 1.3 percent on-year as oil prices picked up. Those of industrial goods gained 0.7 percent, the first on-month growth since April 2020.

A rise in housing prices showed no letup despite the government’s efforts to stabilize home prices. Housing prices rose 1 percent on-year in March, marking the 11th straight month of on-year gains.

Still, the Bank of Korea (BOK) is widely expected to maintain its accommodative monetary stance to help prop up the economic recovery.

The BOK froze its policy rate at a record low of 0.5 percent in February amid lingering economic uncertainties over the pandemic. The bank aims to keep inflation at 2 percent over the medium term.

The BOK revised up its 2021 inflation outlook to 1.3 percent from its earlier estimate of 1 percent, citing an economic recovery and a pickup in oil prices.

This photo, taken March 28, 2021, shows gas prices at a filling station in Seoul. (Yonhap)