Food price surge: Fruit and vegetables most expensive they've been in 10 years, milk reaches all-time high

Food prices are on the rise again, with fruit and vegetables surging to their most expensive level in 10 years and bottled milk reaching an all-time high in July.

New data from Stats NZ shows food prices were up 1.3 percent in July compared to the previous month, with grocery foods and fruit and vegetables behind the increase. This was driven by higher prices for tomatoes (up 21 percent), broccoli (up 39 percent), and strawberries (up 34 percent).

"The weighted average price of a 350g broccoli head was $4.13 in July, an all-time high and $0.43 more expensive than the previous high in May 2017," Stats NZ said in a press release.

Stats NZ's consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said fruit and vegetable prices generally rise in winter as lots of summer produce is out of season and thus becomes more expensive.

However even when seasonally adjusted, fruit and vegetable prices have risen to their highest level in a decade, with a score on the Food Price Index of 1027.

The price rise comes just a month after the food price statistics for June were released, showing vegetable prices had shot up 15 percent compared to May - the sharpest increase in four years.

Fruit and vegetable prices rose another 5.1 percent in July, but were only up 0.8 percent after adjusting for seasonality effects.

"Fruit and vegetables often go in and out of season with large fluctuations in prices, however we can use the seasonally adjusted index to get a better understanding of what the price movement would be without the normal seasonal effects," Dewbery said.

Dairy prices also rose in July, with prices for milk (standard homogenised) up 3.3 percent to an all-time high weighted average price of $3.78 per two-litre bottle. Six-packs of yoghurt (up 2.1 percent), butter (up 2.7 percent) and cream (up 3.9 percent) were also behind the lift.

In June, in response to rising food prices, budgeting experts and Eat Well For Less co-host Michael Van De Elzen told Newshub how people could keep their grocery bills down.

They said the five main keys were to plan meals before shopping and cooking in bulk, spotting a true special by keeping a price record, avoiding the mid-week 'top-up shop', keeping bread in the fridge or freezer and turning old food scraps into new dishes.