Food prices fall for the first time in eight months as veggies come back into season

Fruit and veggie prices fell 5.9 percent in October, contributing to an overall food price drop of 0.9 percent, the Food Price Index shows.
Fruit and veggie prices fell 5.9 percent in October, contributing to an overall food price drop of 0.9 percent, the Food Price Index shows. Photo credit: Getty Images.

In what is a timely reminder of the cost benefits of shopping for in-season produce, October saw the first drop in food prices in eight months.

Statistics New Zealand's October Food Price Index shows food prices have risen 3.7 percent over the last year. Fruit and veggie prices have gone up by 9 percent, restaurant meals and ready-to-eat foods by 5 percent. Grocery foods have gone up by 3.1 percent.

On a monthly basis, prices fell 0.9 percent (0.1 percent with seasonal adjustments) compared to September, the same as in February.  

Fruit and veggie prices fell 5.9 percent over the month and were the biggest contributor to the overall monthly fall. Meat, poultry and fish prices were down 0.4 percent and included a 6 percent fall in roasting pork.  The price of chicken pieces dropped 2.1 percent.

Prices of non-alcoholic drinks fell by 1.6 percent, mainly due to lower soft drink prices.

The average weighted price of tomatoes in October was $12.04 per kg, down from $16.27 per kg in September. Cucumber, lettuce and capsicum prices also dropped over the month. 

But Statistics New Zealand consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said prices across the four types of veggies were still higher than the same time last year.

"Tomato prices are still 47 percent higher than they were in October 2020, when the weighted average price was $8.18 per kilogram," she said.

United Fresh president Jerry Prendergast, told Newshub seasonal growing patterns mean prices can move quickly.  

"I can see us going into a very fair-priced summer," he said.

As tomato exports weren't planned for shipping programmes, there was a shorter crop through winter. Similar to capsicums and cucumbers, tomatoes are a month slower to come down than they should've been. 

Now in November, tomatoes can be purchased for "around half" that of October, at between $4 to $6 per kg.

"As we now travel into summer, tomato prices are declining…[consumers will] notice a reduction in the retail price each week and we'll see those $3.99 prices continuing through January," Prendergast added.

The Food Price Index shows some veggie prices went up in October, including broccoli (up 9.8 percent) and carrots (up 9.5 percent). Kiwifruit prices were up 41 percent.

In addition to tomatoes, price-conscious consumers could also consider adding asparagus and avocados to their plate.

An excess of asparagus means prices are extremely low this year, Prendergast said.  A single bunch can be bought from as little as $2-3.