Cost of living: Food prices 6.4 percent higher than last year - Stats NZ

Food continues to chew up more of New Zealanders' household budgets with prices growing more than 6 percent percent in the year to April, latest figures show.

The food price index, released by Stats NZ on on Thursday, showed food prices have grown year-on-year by 6.6 percent.

The yearly figure was down slightly from March's jump of 7.6 percent - the highest in a decade.

On a monthly basis, food prices were up 0.1 percent in April compared to March.

According to Stats NZ, higher prices for staple foods were the main contributor to the rise - including products such as eggs, milk and cheddar cheese.

Fruit and vegetable prices were up 9.4 percent in the year to April.

Fish, poultry and meat prices rose 8.1 percent over the same period, while grocery food prices as whole increased 6.4 percent. Non-alcoholic drink prices also spiked 2.8 percent. 

Stats NZ consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said food price increases had been ongoing since March last year. 

Cost of living: Food prices 6.4 percent higher than last year - Stats NZ
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In April, the price of restaurant meals also rose month-on-month - which usually happens after a minimum wage increase, she said.

"Even so, the last time restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food had a monthly rise of this scale was following the increase in GST to 15 percent in October 2010, when there was a 1.9 percent increase."

Analysis shows New Zealanders have on average spent an extra $4000-$5000 in the past 12 months on basics including food, rent and fuel.

Having conducted a survey on what Kiwis plan to spend in the next three to six months, independent economist Tony Alexander said Kiwis were cutting their spending on eating out.

Kiwis were being forced to spend more money on essential items and less on other commodities, Milford Asset Management portfolio manager Will Curtayne told AM on Thursday.

He said recession territory was getting dangerously close in New Zealand.

"The risks are going up and it's not a good outlook, and it's grim news."