Food prices continue downward trend

  • 11/03/2016

New Zealand food prices fell for the sixth time in seven months, led by cheap summer fruit and vegetables.

The food price index fell 0.6 percent in February, turning around a 2 percent increase in January, according to Statistics New Zealand. On an annual basis, prices were down 0.5 percent, it's the fifth month in a row where prices were lower than a year earlier.

Food prices account for about 17 percent of the consumers price index, which has tracked below the Reserve Bank's target band of between 1-and-3 percent for more than a year. While cheap international oil has been depressing prices more generally, that's started feeding into firms' expectations which the central bank fears will limit broader wage and price setting and prompted an interest rate cut by governor Graeme Wheeler yesterday.

Friday's data show fruit and vegetable prices were down 2.6 percent in February from a month earlier, and 1.4 percent lower on an annual basis.

Produce is typically cheaper through the summer months, and on a seasonally adjusted basis, Statistics NZ said food prices were up 0.2 percent.

Grocery food prices, which account for about 37 percent of the index, fell 0.3 percent in February due to cheaper snack foods and cheese. On an annual basis, grocery food prices fell 1.9 percent, led by cheaper fresh milk.

Meat, poultry and fish prices fell 0.5 percent in the month and were unchanged on the year, while non-alcoholic beverage prices slipped a monthly 0.7 percent for a 1.5 percent annual decline.

Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices were the only sub-group to rise in February, up 0.1 percent for an annual increase of 2 percent.