Kiwi food prices aren't that bad - Consumer NZ

The difference between what food costs here and in Australia is again in the spotlight.

Photos shared on the Kiwis in Aussie Facebook page recently showed everyday grocery prices in a Kiwi supermarket, compared to what they pay across the ditch.

"Check this out ppl OMG They need Aldis back home aye What a ripoff poor kiwis [sic]" Richie Leef wrote.

Attached were images showing broccoli at $3.69 each, peanut butter for $5.69 and courgettes for $8.89/kg.

The post provoked heated debate, with arguments both ways.

"I was just home, shopped at pack and save generally things are the same [sic]," Stephen Cassidy Naera said.

"Tomatoes were cheaper at home, meat was also and everything tastes better. Beer is cheaper. Butter also was cheaper apples and fruit. Depends where you shop."

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says there are several factors in the price differences between Australia and New Zealand, like seasonality and our export economy.

"We've come through a wet autumn, our products are selling well overseas, and that is bad news for New Zealand consumers," she told The AM Show.

The photo in the Kiwis in Aussie Facebook group showed courgettes at a high price, but as the Produce Company's Seasonality Chart shows, courgettes are currently out of season in New Zealand.

Also in the Facebook post, Pic's Peanut Butter is shown. Pic's is a gourmet, high-end brand - usually $3 to $4 more expensive than the likes of Kraft and ETA.

Ms Chetwin says about five years ago, Australia's consumer watchdog sent a team to New Zealand and found food prices were in fact much cheaper here.

But New Zealand's food prices have increased 2.2 percent in the year to February 2017, led by higher prices for fruit, vegetables and dairy Stats NZ said in March.

"So there is a bit of up and down and seasonality and other factors that come into it, but at the end of the day it is that lack of competition - supermarkets charge the prices they do because they can.

Kiwis need a third supermarket chain

With Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises running our main supermarkets, New Zealand has a "cosy duopoly" which is almost worse than a monopoly, Ms Chetwin says.

"So those supermarkets aren't really competing that hard, whereas in Australia they've had the entrance of Aldi, which is a low-cost supermarket chain and I think that's really making a difference for them.

"I think it would take somebody like an Aldi to come into New Zealand - somebody who's got deep pockets and give it a go - it would be great for New Zealand consumers if it did happen," Ms Chetwin says.

Another factor is Fonterra's dominance of our dairy market.

"Many of us can see the cows down the road but we still pay a huge amount for our milk, and Fonterra argue that we're paying international prices, that they can get these big prices overseas, so that's what consumers have to pay in New Zealand."

As for avocados - the weather's been bad in New Zealand, and Australia simply grows more of them.