China imported commodities at much higher prices in the first 10 months of 2011, with the prices of crops, refined and crude oil imports jumping by more than 30% compared to the same period a year ago, the National Development and Reform Commission said.

Between January and October, China's imported grain prices were up 47.9% year on year to $377.7 per ton, imported soybean prices were up 29.8% year on year to $573.9 per ton, imported cotton prices were up 61.7% year on year to $2,972 per ton, imported edible vegetable oil prices were up 38.4% year on year to $1,175 per ton, and imported sugar prices were up 35.4% year on year to $689.2 per ton, customs statistics show.

In terms of energy commodity imports during the same period, imported iron ore prices were up 33.5% year on year to $166.7 per ton, imported crude oil prices were up 38% year on year to $770.9 per ton, imported refined oil prices were up 34.5% year on year to $798.5 per ton and imported steel billet prices were up 26.7% year on year to $1,145 per ton, customs statistics show.

Increasing domestic demand and consumer spending have fueled pricier imports, which is one of the contributing factors to China's mounting inflation, economists argue, adding that this "imported inflation" is expected to linger for another three to five years.

However, "the impact that imported inflation would exert on China's consumer price index and producer price index would diminish and be less of an issue as the government is trying to rein in the economy and public works," noted Sun Lijian, a professor with the School of Economics of Fudan University in Shanghai. "Higher commodity prices would have been a cause for concern in a scenario like the ¥4 trillion stimulus package in 2009," Sun added.

But as conditions continue to cool, there is still a chance that the central government will fine-tune its stringent economic policies, which premier Wen Jiabao has already hinted at, and that international hot money will further drive up commodity prices, Sun cautioned.

 

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