Colorful fresh fruit and vegetables for sale in local supermarket
© Steve Debenport / iStockphoto

Statistics Canada says the annual pace of inflation in Canada jumped 2.4% to start 2020, fuelled by higher costs at the gas pump and pricey tomatoes.

The move compared with a year-over-year increase of 2.2% in December.

Economists had expected a reading of 2.3% for January, according to a poll by financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Gas prices in January increased 11.2% compared with a year ago as prices rose at the start the month due to concerns about events in the Middle East only to move lower later in the month in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Statistics Canada said Wednesday that excluding gasoline the year-over-year inflation rate would have been 2% in January.

Costs grew for fresh vegetables by 5%, largely attributable the agency says to a 10.8% bump in the price of tomatoes stemming from inclement weather in growing regions of the United States and Mexico.

The overall increase in prices of 2.4% compared with a year ago was also driven by increased mortgage interest costs, purchases of passenger vehicles, auto insurance premiums, and a bump in rents.

The increases were partly offset by lower prices for telephone services, internet access, tuition fees and traveller accommodation.

The average of Canada’s three measures for core inflation, which are considered better gauges of underlying price pressures and closely tracked by the Bank of Canada, was 2.033% compared with 2.067% for December.

Regionally, prices on a year-over-year basis rose more in January than December in every province except Ontario and Quebec.