New Zealand food inflation highest for 13 years as vegetables and dairy drive prices | New Zealand

Shoppers may be forced to skip tomatoes, eggs and dairy products in New Zealandas the country experiences the largest annual spike in food prices in 13 years.

Stats NZ released new figures showing food prices had grown by 8.3% to August – the largest annual increase since the global financial crisis in July 2009 when food prices jumped up by 8.4%.

“Increasing prices for eggs, yoghurt, and cheddar cheese were the largest drivers within grocery food,” said Katrina Dewbery, a Stats NZ spokesperson.

Like many nations, inflation is on the charge in New Zealand, with benchmark consumers price index (CPI) inflation at 7.3%when last measured in July.

Fruit and vegetables – particularly capsicums, potatoes and onions – had jumped up 15% in the past year and were also the largest contributor to the monthly rise, influenced by higher prices for tomatoes, capsicums and cabbage, Dewberry said.

Grocery food prices were up 8.7% over the year, meat and fish up 7.6%, and beverages up 4.1%. The price of eggs also soared, up 6.7% in August alone.

Over the 13 years, tomatoes had increased by 162.2% – the biggest overall price jump – and butter prices were up 103%.

Inflation – driven by many factors, including the monetary response to Covid-19, global supply-chain issues and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – has sparked a cost of living crisis in New Zealand, and is adding to the already high food prices.

New Zealand shoppers face some of the most expensive groceries in the OECD. In July 2021, a commerce commission investigation into New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly found the grocers were making huge profits and charging some of the highest prices in the OECD. The government confirmed in May it had accepted all 12 of the commission’s recommendations.

The latest figures have prompted the Green party to call on the government to urgently increase support for people struggling to put food on the table.

“There is little doubt that the ongoing inequality crisis is putting huge pressure on the ability of many to afford a healthy meal,” said Ricardo Menéndez March, Green’s commerce and consumer affairs spokesperson.

“There is no reason why we cannot ensure every family can afford the food they need now and in the future.”

Menéndez March said incomes and benefits must be boosted and government-funded food grants should be improved to become more accessible and to match rising costs.

A Westpac senior economist, Satish Ranchhod, told the NZ Herald the food price increase was partly the outcome of poor growing conditions.

“However, the pressure on food prices has been widespread, with shortages of many items globally, as well as large increases in production costs including fuel, fertiliser and packaging materials,” he said.

“We’ve also seen shortages of labour and related sharp increases in wage costs.”

There was better news for New Zealand exporters, who have enjoyed growth worth $NZ2.8 billion over the last year to record levels.

Stats NZ said the total export value of milk powder, butter and cheese increased by 17% in the year ending July 2022, to $NZ18.8bn.

“Dairy products had a strong finish to the export season with a continuation of high prices, especially in the second half of the season,” its spokesperson Alasdair Allen said.

Dairy exports are worth $NZ3670 per New Zealander, with the country exporting $NZ10bn worth of milk powder alone last year.

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