This compares with a 3.2 percent rise in February, to a 10-month high.
Meanwhile, producer prices fell 1.9 percent in line with expectations.
PPI was down 1.6 percent the previous month.
Last month, food prices climbed 6 percent on the year. Food prices account for a larger part of the Chinese inflation basket and are therefore closely watched by investors, but the surge in February was attributed to the Lunar New Year holiday. In March, food prices were up 2.7 percent.
Bank of America's Ting Lu expects food inflation to fall 1 percent, and for non-food inflation to fall one percent.
China has set an inflation target of 3.5 percent for the year. While the central bank wants to keep inflation in check, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) wants to ensure growth says strong and this is likely to keep the central bank's hands tied.
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