Meat and poultry lead 0.5 percent monthly fall in prices

Lower meat and poultry prices led the 0.5 percent fall in February 2018 food prices, Stats NZ said today.

Beef prices fell 4.4 percent, while chicken prices fell 3.4 percent. The average price for cheapest available chicken breast was $12.83 a kilo, down from $13.94 the previous month.

Grocery food prices also fell in February 2018, down 0.7 percent, with lower prices for chocolate.

Fruit and vegetable prices fell 0.9 percent in the month, with no overall change after seasonal adjustment.

“Apples, pumpkin, and kumara are coming down after months of high prices,” consumer prices manager Geoffrey Wong said.

Fruit and vegetable prices lower than this time last year

Prices for fruit and vegetables decreased 4.4 percent in the year to February 2018. The decrease in fruit and vegetable prices offset increases in all other food groups, with an overall annual increase in food prices of just 0.1 percent.

“It was around this time last year that we were seeing the effects of a poor summer season,” consumer prices manager Geoffrey Wong said. “The average price for a kilo of tomatoes was $2.86 in February 2018, compared with $3.64 in the same month last year.”

Vegetable prices decreased 4.7 percent in the year, with lower prices for tomatoes, carrots, and onions. Carrot prices were at their highest-ever level in February last year.

Apples were the leading contributor to the annual decrease in fruit prices, down 27 percent from the same time last year.

Partly offsetting these decreases was a 2.5 percent increase in restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food.

Adverse weather conditions damage crops

Despite the falls in fruit and vegetable prices this month, some vegetables, such as lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower, had large price rises. Lettuce prices rose 32 percent in the month to February 2018, the largest monthly rise for a February since 2013. The average price for a 500g head of lettuce was $2.26 in February 2018, compared with $1.80 in February 2017.

“In recent weeks, a combination of humid weather and cyclone Gita have affected some crops,” Mr Wong said. “As this occurred towards the end of February, we may continue to see higher prices in March.”

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Food Service