U.S. import prices rose less than expected in June as a drop in the cost of food offset an increase in petroleum, suggesting imported inflation pressures remained benign.

The Labor Department said on Tuesday import prices edged up 0.1 percent last month after increasing by a revised 0.3 percent in May.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast import prices rising 0.3 percent after a previously reported 0.1 percent gain in May. In the 12 months through June, prices increased 1.2 percent, the largest rise since March 2012.

Sluggish global demand and a fairly strong dollar are keeping imported inflation subdued. Domestic inflation, however, is steadily creeping as the labor market gradually tightens.

That could put the Federal Reserve on course to start increasing interest rates by the second half of next year.

Imported petroleum prices increased 1.4 percent in June after rising 2.2 percent in May. Imported food prices fell 1.7 percent, the largest drop since February 2012. Food prices had declined 0.5 percent in May.

Import prices excluding petroleum fell 0.2 percent. The Labor Department report also showed export prices fell 0.4 percent in June after edging up 0.1 percent the prior month.

In the 12 months through June, export prices rose 0.2 percent.