Cost of living: New Zealand food prices grow 11.3 percent, biggest increase in more than three decades

A continued surge in the cost of most food commodities has sent Statistics NZ's food price index to a three-decade high.

The statistics agency's index was up 11.3 last month compared with December 2021 - the biggest increase in 32 years.

"Grocery food was the largest contributor to this movement," Stats NZ said in a statement.

"Increasing prices for cheddar cheese, barn or cage-raised eggs and potato chips were the largest drivers within grocery food."

Food prices surged throughout last year, largely driven by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

December's annual food price figure followed a 10.7 percent increase in November.

The latest index remained well above annual consumer inflation (7.2 percent).

Broken down by food categories, the biggest annual price increase was fruit and vegetables (up 23 percent), and groceries and meat, poultry and fish (both up 11 pct).

Restaurant meals also saw a 7.8 percent increase year on year.

As well as annual growth, New Zealand's food prices recorded a 1.1 percent monthly increase in December.

"Fruit and vegetables were the largest contributor to the monthly movement," Stats NZ said. "Within this group, the items having the greatest impact were tomatoes, kiwifruit and potatoes."

With New Zealand expected to slide into recession this year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Government last month announced a slight extension on cuts to fuel excise duty, road user charges and public transport fares to help ease some of the cost pressures facing Kiwis. However, the subisides would be phased out from late next month before ending in March.

New Zealand's economy was likely to get worse before it gets better and some experts have said the country was likely already in recession.

With an election coming up in September, Finance Minister Grant Robertson has vowed "to support New Zealanders, to help them stay in work, to be able to get through this period of time".