* reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=cpurl://apps.cp./Apps/econ-polls?RIC=BRIPCA%3DE C I Brazil inflation poll data
BRASILIA, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Brazil's inflation rate likely accelerated in mid-January back to the official target range after ending 2017 below the goal for the first time ever, a Reuters poll showed.
The reading should confirm that a December spike in food prices spelled an end to a months-long period of food deflation, keeping the central bank on track for a final interest rate cut in February.
Consumer prices tracked by the benchmark IPCA index likely rose 3.07 percent in the 12 months through mid-January, according to the median of 24 forecasts.
That should bring the inflation rate back within the target range of 4.5 percent plus or minus 1.5 percentage points for the first time since June.
Economists expect inflation to keep accelerating towards the target's midpoint as food prices continue to rise, removing a hurdle that was largely responsible for last year's miss.
"We should see a reversal of food prices trend in the upcoming months ... due to the start of the rainy season," economists at Morgan Stanley wrote in a report. "This should be only partly offset by lower electricity tariffs and air fares."
A record agricultural harvest drove food prices lower last year, pushing the 2017 inflation rate below the bottom end of the target for the first time since the inflation targeting began in the 1990s.
The IPCA index rose 2.95 percent last year. Stripping away food prices, the rate would have been 4.54 percent, the central bank said.
The mid-January report, scheduled for publication on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. local time (1100 GMT), is likely to show a 0.44 monthly rise, boosted by food prices.
Lower power tariffs likely kept a lid on price hikes after stronger-than-expected rains boosted hydropower generation and drove regulators to cut prices.
Inflation is likely to accelerate only slowly in coming months as unemployment remains at double digits and companies grapple with idle capacity. A central bank weekly survey of economists put 2018 inflation at 4.25 percent, still below the target's midpoint.
That should keep the central bank on track to cutting interest rates for a final time next month to 6.75 percent, an all-time low, providing additional support to the economic recovery.
The bank has cut the benchmark Selic rate by 725 basis points since October. Interest rate futures indicate investors expect a 25 basis-point reduction in February, with a minority of traders banking on an additional cut in March. (Reporting by Bruno Federowski; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)