Frustrating government efforts to bring down prices, the country's food inflation based on wholesale prices came close to 18 per cent for the week ending February 6.
To be exact, it stood at 17. 97 per cent for the week compared with 17.94 per cent for the week before.
Prices of essential items continued their upward trend as vegetables became costlier by 19.56 per cent, potatoes by 38.02 per cent, pulses by 38.04 per cent and fruits by 10.39 per cent over the 52-week period.
The data on wholesale price index furnished by the government revealed that the index for primary articles rose by 16.23 per cent, while that for fuels rose by 9.89 per cent.
The annual rate of inflation, based on the wholesale prices index, had risen to 8.56 per cent in January from 7.31 per cent in the previous month, primarily due to a relentless rise in food prices.
The Reserve Bank of India also raised its projected annual inflation rate at the end of this fiscal to 8.5 per cent from 6.5 per cent.
Experts said the development might strengthen the case for raising interest rates by the RBI.
Climbing food and fuel costs coupled with the rise in manufacturing prices are likely to push up the overall wholesale price inflation (WPI) from 8.56 per cent in January to 10 per cent by March, according to experts.
They also predicted that RBI may be forced to raise borrowing rates.
Only last month it effected a bigger-than-expected rise in banks' cash reserve requirements.
Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, has said that the measures taken by the government to tame inflation will take some time to have their effect and that the country would see a moderate rate of inflation in the next couple of months.
The upward movement of food prices has forced the government to postpone a decision on a proposed fuel price hike.
During the 52-week period, prices of pulses rose by 38.04 per cent, potatoes by 38.02 per cent, vegetables by 19.56 per cent, wheat by 15.78 per cent, onions by 1.48 per cent, milk by 14.16 per cent, fruits by 10.39 per cent and rice by 9.64 per cent.
The rising inflation is a major cause of worry for the government as it prepares to present the Union Budget in a week's time.
However, it said today that it would await the Budget before taking a decision on providing a stimulus package for various export commodities which continued to fare poorly.