Annual food inflation slows to 8 percent, lowest rate in more than a year - Stats NZ

Food inflation is slowing - prices rose 8 percent in the year to September, the lowest annual rate of increase in more than a year.
Food inflation is slowing - prices rose 8 percent in the year to September, the lowest annual rate of increase in more than a year. Photo credit: Newshub.

Food inflation in New Zealand has slowed to its lowest annual rate in more than a year, new data released on Thursday shows. 

Prices rose 8 percent in the year to September, according to Tatauranga Aotearoa/Statistics New Zealand. 

That's the smallest annualised increase since July 2022. 

It follows a declining inflationary trend in the past four months, after the annual rate was 12.5 percent in the June year, 9.6 in the July year, and 8.9 in the August year. 

On a monthly basis, food prices fell 0.4 percent in September (0.1 pct seasonally adjusted) compared to August.

Mark Smith, senior economist at ASB, said Thursday's figures were in line with expectations. 

"It could be that increased consumer resistance and lower global food commodity prices are dampening pressures at the retail level." 

These factors, along with cheaper vegetables, will see food inflation in Aotearoa continue slowing into next year, he added. But, overall, a "difficult period lies ahead for NZ consumers", Smith said. 

He said global commodity prices have fallen nearly 20 percent from their peaks during COVID-19 and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but it takes about nine months for this to flow through to the New Zealand economy.

James Mitchell, consumer prices manager at Tatauranga/Stats NZ, said grocery food was the main contributor to September's food inflation. 

"Fresh eggs, potato crisps, and lollies were the largest drivers within grocery food." 

Prices rose across all five broad food categories, Mitchell said.

Price increases (annualised) by category

  • 10.7 pc - Grocery food
  • 8.6 pc - Restaurant meals, ready-to-eat food
  • 6.9 pc - Meat, poultry, fish
  • 8.3 pc - Non-alcoholic drinks
  • 1.4 pc - Fruit and vegetable prices

In terms of groceries, price falls in bread, cereal, milk, cheese and eggs was offset by price hikes in other grocery items. 

Restaurant and ready-to-eat meals rose 0.3 percent month-on-month, which Smith said was likely due to rising wages. 

Fruit and vegetable inflation slowed to 1.4 percent annually - its lowest rate in nearly four years, and Smith said cheaper fruit and veges were likely due to the industry having partially recovered after Cyclone Gabrielle. 

Meat products stayed flat overall, but beef and pork prices rose while lamb, poultry and fish prices fell.

Soft drinks, water and juices drove the 1 percent monthly rise in non-alcoholic beverages. 

Soft consumer demand and a growing resistance to paying higher prices "might be impacting food retail pricing decisions", Smith reckoned. 

The welcome news of cheaper fruit and veges comes after August's 0.5 percent monthly inflation rate was driven by rising produce prices