Vegetable prices soar in June as growing season ends

The Statistics New Zealand food price index shows record-high prices for courgettes, tomatoes and lettuces.
The Statistics New Zealand food price index shows record-high prices for courgettes, tomatoes and lettuces. Photo credit: Getty.

If your grocery bill has recently shot up, chances are it could be due to soaring vegetable prices.

The Statistics New Zealand food price index, which measures changes in food prices, shows record-high prices for courgettes, up 74 percent in the month of June 2020 compared to May, to $21.42 per kilogram. Lettuce prices were up 53.1 percent and tomato prices were up 27 percent - a rise of 48 percent year-on-year.

The overall price of vegetables rose 7.6 percent in June compared to May.   

Statistics New Zealand consumer prices manager Sarah Johnson, said that due to the courgette growing season coming to an end, combined with no Queensland imports, there was a local shortage.

"We would typically see courgette imports from Australia fill the gap," Johnson said.

Due to the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus, Queensland imports of fresh cucurbit, including courgettes were suspended in December last year. The Ministry for Primary Industries told Statistics New Zealand they were waiting for a proposal on the way forward.

"Courgette prices tend to peak in September, but the shortage of supply has pushed prices up to record-high levels this month, in the absence of supply from Queensland," Johnson added.

Overall food prices rose by a modest 0.5 percent in June (0.4 percent after seasonal adjustments). Fruit prices dropped 1.5 percent, partially offsetting the rise in vegetable prices. Among the fruit and vegetable prices that dropped from May to June were kiwifruit (down 25.2 percent), carrots (down 12.3 percent), potatoes (down 9.9 percent) and apples (down 9.5 percent).

Overall prices for meat, poultry and fish increased by 0.9 percent in June compared to May.  Prices of restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food rose by 0.4 percent.

Small falls were recorded across all grocery food, down 0.5 percent (0.2 percent after seasonal adjustment) in June, while the price of non-alcoholic beverages fell 1.1 percent.

Annually, food prices rose by 4.1 percent from June 2019 to June 2020. Annual fruit and vegetable prices increased 10 percent, meat, poultry and fish prices increased by 3.9 percent and grocery food prices increased by 3 percent over the year. Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices increased 3.5 percent and prices of non-alcoholic drinks increased by 1.4 percent.

The Statistics New Zealand food price index 3-year annual change, June 2017 to June 2020.
The Statistics New Zealand food price index 3-year annual change, June 2017 to June 2020. Photo credit: Supplied/StatisticsNewZealand.

Monday prices at Pak'nSave and New World show courgette prices are $24.99 per kg ($2.50 per 100g).

People wanting their daily dose of leafy greens could shop for what's in season, and buy cheaper alternatives, such as frozen peas, spinach or silverbeet. Other lower-priced winter vegetable options include potatoes, carrots and mushrooms.

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