High avocado prices bad news for sushi restaurants

High avocado prices bad news for sushi restaurants

The price of fruit and vegetables has risen 8.9 percent in the past year, according to Statistics New Zealand.

The Food Price Index, released today, shows a significant increase in the cost of avocados and tomatoes.

Avocado prices have more than doubled since April 2015 and are now at their highest level since July 2005.

The price of tomatoes has also risen sharply since this time last year.

"The average price for tomatoes in April 2016 was $6.70 a kilo, up from $4.81 a kilo a year ago," Stats NZ consumer prices manager Matt Haigh said.

Meanwhile, the price of dairy has tanked, helping to ease the overall price of food. Milk is down 10 percent, with yogurt prices decreasing by 11 percent.

Despite the increased cost of fruit and vegetables, in the year to 2016, food prices increased overall by 0.5 percent.

The Food Price Index measures the change in price for a fixed set of foods and services. In a typical month, Statistics NZ collects 19,000 prices from 560 outlets.

If you've noticed the prices of avocados increasing, you're not the only one.

A continuing increase in demand for avocados, combined with the outgoing season, has seen prices fluctuate in the avocado market.

Avocado trees hold the current season's crop as well as growing fruit for the new season.

A bumper crop expected in June 2016 has been bad news for the current season, as the new fruits demand the tree's energy and nutrients.

Jen Scoular, chief executive of industry group NZ Avocado, says current avocados are the tail-end fruits of the season. New season fruits are expected to start filling shelves around the end of June, with the main season taking place around August.

Until then, Ms Scoular warns against buying bright green, shiny fruits -- they are unripe new-season fruit.

"It will never ripen; never taste very nice. It will be stringy."

In supermarkets and grocery stores, owners can raise the price of avocados in response to increased buying costs.

That can be a little trickier for those in food and hospitality.

Nick Katsoulis, menu designer for St Pierre's Sushi, says the store is grappling with the worst supply situation in 32 years in business and is bearing the brunt of increasing costs.

"We use a lot of avocados, always have. We introduced double avocado [sushi rolls], which are really popular. So as a result, we are extremely short of avocados, plus we are paying exceptionally high prices."

Mr Katsoulis says the store could charge extra for avocado, but they don't want to do that.

"We're just riding it out. Hopefully in mid-June it will cool down a bit, but no one really knows."

The price fluctuation has been unfortunate timing for the sushi chain, as they've just released a new range of vegetarian options. In a cruel twist of fate, the most popular of the new range has been the "avocado junkie".

"Whoever buys one is getting an absolute bargain", says Mr Katsoulis.

Mr Katsoulis says the popularity of avocados is all down to their taste.

"Avocado is a bit like bread and butter -- with butter, it tastes so much better."

High avocado prices bad news for sushi restaurants

In April 2016 compared with April 2015, food prices increased 0.5 percent.

Fruit and vegetable prices rose 8.9 percent.

High prices for avocados and tomatoes were slightly offset by a drop in kumara and potatoes.

Meat, poultry, and fish prices fell 2.7 percent.

Grocery food prices fell 1.7 percent.

Non-alcoholic beverage prices rose 0.5 percent.

Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices rose 1.9 percent.

Average prices per kg compared to April 2015

Avocados were $18.26 in April 2016, compared with $7.65.

Broccoli was $6.26 in April 2016, compared with $4.65.

Tomatoes were $6.70 in April 2016, compared with $4.81.

The average price for 500 grams of butter was $3.65 in April 2016, compared with $3.09.