Veggie prices soar in June, marking highest rise in four years

In what is a timely reminder to shop for in-season produce, last month saw the highest rise for vegetable prices in four years. 

The Statistics New Zealand food price index, which measures changes in food prices, shows veggie prices, including tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, capsicum and broccoli, shot up 15 percent in June compared to May (8.5 percent with seasonal adjustments).   

Overall food prices rose 1.4 percent over the June month - up 2.8 percent on the same time last year.

Statistics New Zealand consumer prices manager Matthew Sansfield said heading through winter, due to the change of season, it's typical to see prices for many veggies rise.

"However, we're seeing larger rises than usual for this time of the year and for a greater number of vegetables." 

Tomatoes and cucumbers led the charge for the highest percentage increase across the veggie category, both up 52 percent compared to May. The weighted average prices (average price across all regions) were $11.19 per kilogram for tomatoes and $16.79 per kilogram for cucumbers.

Capsicum prices rose 27 percent: the weighted average price at $24.16 per kilogram, marking an all-time high.

"Capsicum prices follow a very seasonal trend, generally reaching their peak during July or August as more produce is imported during winter," Stansfield said.

He said tomato growers typically planned nine months ahead, COVID-19 uncertainty and weather issues affecting produce - and prices.

Prices for kiwifruit, instant coffee, pork leg and kumara dropped over the June month. Kiwifruit prices dropped 24 percent, pork leg and kumara were each down 10 percent and instant coffee was down 4.9 percent.

Shoppers wanting to keep food costs low could look at the Produce NZ seasonality chart to see what's in season.  Veggies such as pumpkin, silverbeet, cabbage and carrots may be viable alternatives while prices for cucumber and capsicum are high.