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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – The Argentine government on Thursday said annual inflation data registered in February, the highest since 1991, was “very bad,” but insisted that the 60% inflation rate forecast in this year’s budget would be met, the president’s spokesperson said.

President Alberto Fernandez has struggled to rein in one of the world’s highest inflation rates that has put increasing pressure on Argentine consumers. The latest data shows the government falling behind its targets for the year as key October elections approach when the ruling Peronist government will try to hold on to power.

Argentina last month registered an inflation rate of 6.6% compared to January and 102.5% compared to February of the previous year, the highest data since the 115% annual rate in September 1991. The country ended with a price increase of 95% in 2022.

“The inflation data obviously seems bad, very bad and also was not expected,” presidential spokesperson Gabriela Cerruti said during a press conference.

Cerruti explained that the price increase was driven by the worst drought in decades in this major soy-producing country, which led to increases in the meat price of 20 points, and telecommunications, whose rates the government cannot yet regulate.

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“We hope that the plan that was going to lower the curve, which had these problems, can somehow return to the path that was planned, indicated, and that we get to that (60% annual inflation),” she added.

Cerruti said “there is no disapproval” of the Minister of Economy, Sergio Massa, on behalf of Fernandez, and that both are constantly talking about measures to contain inflation.

Stabilizing prices is a key task for the government as presidential elections approach. Fernandez, whose popularity has plunged as the country battles soaring inflation, is expected to seek reelection.

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski. Writing by Anna-Catherine Brigida; Editing by Mark Porter)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

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