New Delhi: Overall food prices declined for the second consecutive week year-on-year, led by a sharp drop in the price of vegetables, especially onions, official data showed on Thursday.

Annual food inflation fell minus 2.9 percent for the week ended December 31 as compared to minus 3.36 percent in the previous week, the lowest since April 2006.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the general price level would continue to moderate in the coming months.

"Moderation in inflation would continue in the coming months, though softening in the prices of manufactured goods, despite the rapid decline in non-food primary inflation, may be more gradual," Mukherjee said while reacting on the weekly data.

The Finance Minister said overall inflation would come down to six to seven percent by the end of March this year.

The headline inflation based on the wholesale price index was recorded at 9.11 percent in November, as per the latest available data.

During the week ended December 24, food inflation had dipped into the negative for the first time in six years, giving relief to the common man and policymakers alike.

The sharp decline in food inflation is partly because of the base effect and also improved supply of seasonal crops. During the corresponding week of last year, annual inflation was almost near 20 percent.

Data released by the ministry of commerce and industry showed that the prices of vegetables were less than half during the week when compared to the prices in the corresponding week of last year.

Inflation in overall primary articles, which has a 20.12 percent weightage in the wholesale price index, rose to 0.51 percent in the week under review.

However, fuel and power inflation declined marginally to 14.45 percent as compared to 14.6 percent in the previous week. Economists said the recent drop in food inflation and easing in overall inflationary pressure may prompt the central bank to cut interest rates and that food inflation was likely to remain near zero or in the negative territory till March.

The fall in food inflation has raised hopes of a decline in headline inflation based on the wholesale price index which, according to the latest available data, was recorded at 9.11 percent in November.

The following are the yearly rise and fall in prices in the week under review of some main commodities that form the sub-index for food articles: Onions: (-) 74.77 percent Vegetables: (-) 49.03 percent Fruits: 9 percent Potatoes: (-) 31.97 percent Eggs, meat, fish: 15.22 percent Cereals: 2.03 percent Rice: 1.7 percent Wheat: (-) 3.35 percent Pulses: 14.72 percent.

(Agencies)