The soaring price of pork and other food kept Chinese consumer inflation close to eight-year highs in February, official data showed today, as authorities battled the coronavirus outbreak. 

Analysts said the figure would likely remain elevated for some time as measures put in place around the country to contain the deadly epidemic have put a huge dent in supplies of key goods. 

However, the factory prices fell and observers warned of further drops as global demand for Chinese goods is battered by the spread of the disease. 

Chinese consumer inflation rose 5.2% year-on-year last month, slightly down from 5.4% the month before, which was the highest since October 2011. 

The reading was in line with forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. 

China's food prices rose almost 22%, with pork increasing 135% - following a 116% rise in January - as the country's pig herds are ravaged by African swine fever that has seen millions of pigs culled. 

"The sudden new coronavirus epidemic caused a more complex impact on price movements in February," said Zhao Maohong, director for the urban department of the National Bureau of Statistics. 

Consumers were encouraged to stay home over an extended Lunar New Year holiday to avoid infections and businesses suspended operations. Cities also imposed various travel restrictions. 

China's producer price index - a barometer of the industrial sector that measures the cost of goods at the factory gate - fell 0.4%, slightly more than expectations of a 0.3% drop.

Meanwhile, passenger car sales in China plummeted last month as well, dragged down by the epidemic, according to data released this week by the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). 

It said 124,649 cars were sold last month, a 78.4% drop from a year ago.