Inflation: Biggest annual food price increase in over a decade adds to cost of living crisis

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may not think it is a crisis but the cost of living for most Kiwis took another hit after annual food prices rose a whopping 6.8 percent in February. 

The results, released by Stats New Zealand on Friday, were the largest annual increase since July 2011 and are going to make managing the household budget harder for a lot of Kiwis. 

Fruit and vegetables led the onslaught on Kiwi's wallets rising 17 percent. 

"Fruit and vegetables were the largest contributor to the annual movement, mainly influenced by tomatoes, broccoli, and iceberg lettuce,” Stats New Zealand food prices lead analyst Angus Crowe said. 

Grocery food prices rose by 5.4 percent, restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices increased by 5.2 percent, meat, poultry, and fish prices increased by 7.1 percent and non-alcoholic beverage prices increased by 2.3 percent.

The price of two-litre bottles of standard milk, eat-in lunch meals, and 1-kilo blocks of mild cheese also rose, however, the price of kumara, avocado, and crackers all fell. 

Month-on-month food prices dropped 0.1 percent but that was after a big rise in January of 2.7 percent month-on-month. 

Mark Smith, a senior economist at ASB, said in a statement February's food price data was "stronger than expected, with annual food price inflation at its highest in more than a decade and highlighting the widespread drivers of high food price inflation." 

Smith said coupled with higher fuel prices they forecast the annual Consumer Price Index to rise from 5.9 percent to 7.5 percent in the June 2022 quarter - the highest it has been since 1990. Smith forecasts 2022 to end with inflation at 5.7 percent. 

"High inflation is also a tax on households. We expect higher food and fuel prices alone to add $40 of costs to the average weekly household budget over 2022, adding to the squeeze facing the household sector. Many households will cop a larger hit," Smith said. 

New Zealanders are struggling with what has been labelled a cost of living crisis, with the price of food, petrol and rent all seeing a sharp rise over the past few months. 

The price of petrol is expected to rise again on Friday after Hamilton-based fuel supplier Waitomo Group warned 'unprecedented price increases' internationally mean petrol is about to get more expensive. 

Ardern rejected suggestions last week there was a cost of living crisis telling AM while she acknowledged it was a tough time for many New Zealanders she wouldn't go that far. 

"I wouldn't describe it that way, there is an impact that people are feeling undeniably but I wouldn't describe it in that way," Ardern told AM. 

Her words prompted outrage from many New Zealanders with one mother of five Krystine Nation telling AM her food bill had risen by $7000 in a year. 

"To say there isn't a crisis… she [Ardern] needs to get on the ground floor," she said. 

"I couldn't understand why we were struggling so much when in the first lockdown I was teaching people how to buy their groceries for $200 a week and live comfortably…In just over a year my groceries have increased $7000 annually. 

"That's a lot, my husband hasn't received a $7000 increase in his pay. Not only that there is the petrol, the rent, I have spoken to so many people about this."