Mothers are skipping meals to feed their children and
homeowners are forgoing insurance as the price of food
continues to rise, an expert says.
The cost of food increased 1.4 per cent in the year to
November, Statistics New Zealand said, driven largely by the
increased cost of meat, poultry and dairy.
Fresh milk prices were up 6.7 per cent, with butter up 23 per
cent and cheese up 5.4 per cent. Meat and poultry prices were
up 8.2 per cent overall, with beef up 2.1 per cent and lamb
up 4.4 per cent.
Poverty and nutrition expert Associate Professor Winsome
Parnell, of Otago University, said food prices had been
creeping up by $2 a week over the last three decades, making
it tighter and tighter for people on fixed incomes.
Perishable goods like milk were the quickest to fall off the
shopping list, and people also opted for meat-free meals or
chose cheaper cuts.
When people got really stuck, they would cut out other
essential costs like house insurance. Mothers also went
without in order to feed their children, Professor Parnell
"There is a tendency to compromise on the food budget to
accommodate other things, but there's a limit beyond which
you can't go," she said.
"But if it gets extremely severe, well yes, you can go
Wellington dietician Vicki Robinson, a public health
nutrition expert, said price increases were a barrier to
people on low incomes eating healthily, and could lead to a
long-term increase in obesity and other health problems.
"If you don't have a lot of money and prices of meat go up,
it's probably going to drive you to either have less meat, or
it's going to drive you to choose less expensive choices,
which tend to be fattier."
But Nutrition Foundation dietitian Sarah Hanrahan said it was
encouraging that the cost of staples like bread, fruit and
vegetables had remained fairly steady.
"The only thing that had gone up substantially was milk, out
of that staple range."
Ms Hanrahan said the prices showed eating seasonally was
important. She cited the cost of pumpkin, which dropped 54
per cent on last year to $2.31 a kilogram.
Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said
rising commodity prices had placed many food companies under
immense pressure, particularly those using dairy ingredients.
But with supermarkets calling for a halt to price increases,
the costs had mostly been absorbed by food companies rather
"There has been such rampant discounting within the grocery
sector that on some categories, prices have gone backwards,"
"But over a period of time, many of these costs will have to
be passed on."
Beef and Lamb communications manager Kim Doran said beef and
lamb price rises were relatively small and most people would
probably not even notice.
"They will be buying per serve rather than per kilo, and
retailers will do their best to make cuts meet the price
points of their specific customers."
Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton said the
rate of inflation was at the same level as the food price
increase, or 1.4 per cent, so producers and consumers were on
an even keel.
"The dairy industry is very aware of making its product
accessible and this is why dairy farmers support and
understand the New Zealand consumers as we are consumers as
well. A good example is the initiative to get dairy products
into schools at no cost to the kids or the schools."