Food prices tipped to stay high

Health-conscious Kiwis feeling the pinch this winter are unlikely to find any respite as fruit and vegetable prices are expected to remain high.

Latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show fruit and vegetable prices rose 13 per cent between May and June - with large increases in tomato and lettuce prices driving the rise.

However, industry experts say the jump, which was significantly higher than the overall food price increase of 2.1 per cent for the month, was in keeping with seasonal changes.

Horticulture New Zealand (HNZ), which represents 5500 commercial fruit and vegetable growers, also warned prices were likely to rise again before spring.

"The summer's finished - we're going into winter vegetables so summer vegetables like your lettuce gets short," HNZ president and chairman of directors Andrew Fenton said.

People needed to "get used" to the price increases, he said.

New Zealand's recent drought period, which gave rise to favourable growing conditions, resulted in an influx of fruit and vegetables on the market, he said.

Tomatoes, which were priced particularly low during May, were now in short supply, Mr Fenton said.

Statistics New Zealand figures showed the red vegetables almost doubled in price between May and June.

The price of lettuce rose 55 per cent.

Mr Fenton advised Kiwi shoppers "to buy when the product is plentiful."

"As we go through to the early part of the spring, they'll [prices] rise again," he said.

Year-on-year changes show fruit and vegetable prices were up 4.9 per cent in the 12 months to June. The overall increase in food prices was 0.6 per cent.

Sarah Williams of Statistics New Zealand said the changes in fruit and vegetable prices were usually dependent on weather.

Comparisons with previous food price indexes showed variations were common, Ms Williams said.

"For example, in the year to July 2012, we had a fall of 6.6 per cent."

However, in the year to June 2011, fruit and vegetable prices increased 15.7 per cent, she said.

Other changes in the Food Price Index show meat, poultry and fish prices rose 1.3 per cent between May and June, despite an overall annual drop of 0.9 per cent.


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