A woman buys vegetables at a market in Shanghai. Rising food prices are having an effect on people's wallets. [Photo / China Daily]
SHANGHAI - Lin Yibai, a 27-year-old Shanghai resident, frowns at the steamed buns in a fast food store adjacent to his workplace.
Every morning he buys two buns, which costs three yuan (46 cents) for breakfast. But, from this year onwards, he has to buy four.
It's not because his appetite has expanded. Rather, the buns have shrunk.
To Lin and many other city dwellers in China, inflation is not just a set of official figures. Rising prices of food and daily necessities are having an effect on the wallets of the Chinese.
Lin counts the number of bites to gauge the value of his money. These days "it lasts no more than two bites," he sighed, referring to a steamed bun. In the past, he could enjoy five bites of a bun.
Buns, one of the most common foods in Shanghai, are the basis of Lin's inflation index.
"I don't have to wait for the government to tell me how much less my money is worth," he said.
"I can tell from the size of my buns."
"Almost every resident in Shanghai has his or her own price index on their major purchases, but I guess all the indices are pointing up," Lin said.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Wednesday that China's consumer price index (CPI) rose 5.3 percent in April compared to a year earlier, excluding housing costs.
Food prices, which account for nearly a third of the CPI basket, surged 11.5 percent, according to Sheng Laiyun, a spokesman for the NBS.
For Wang Wenting, her hair rather than food is the major factor in her rocketing expenditure. She is considering cutting her hair short, as she can no longer afford to get it done at the salon as often as she used to do.
"I have my hair done at least four times a month, setting different styles every time before I attend a party. I may not be able to afford this any longer," she said.
Average monthly expenses for hair styling have rocketed from 300 yuan in 2010 to 500 yuan this year.
"It's not fun when you have to pay so much to have fun," she said.
Zhang Yingcheng, a 48-year-old businessman, is sensitive about fuel surcharges.
"Last week I bought a ticket that has a face value of 200 yuan, but the fuel surcharge was 160 yuan," he said.
A frequent flier, Zhang estimates that since May he has had to pay at least 400 yuan a month for the fuel oil surcharge.
One yuan is a big deal for 21-year-old Yan Hao, a college student in Shanghai's Songjiang, district
When the price of yogurt rose from four to five yuan in April, he had to cross it off his shopping list.
His weekly food budget is 100 yuan, and almost everything on his menu now costs one yuan more than in April.
A bowl of rice rose from one yuan to two yuan, and fried chicken wings rose from 10 yuan to 11.
"I used to drink a bottle of yogurt every day when it cost four yuan. Now, I drink it two days in a week; the price of yogurt rose to five yuan," he said.
Even teenagers realize their pocket money is devalued.
"With my 50 yuan weekly pocket money, I could buy drinks and snacks every day on my way home after school, but I take my own bottle now. Drinks are too expensive," said 15-year-old Wang Rongjie.
Wang Ying and Li Luxiang contributed to the story.