Fruit and vege prices drop, but shoppers still feel the pain

Shoppers say they're still searching for savings, despite a drop in prices for fresh produce.
Shoppers say they're still searching for savings, despite a drop in prices for fresh produce. Photo credit: Getty Images

By Finn Blackwell for RNZ

Supermarket shoppers are still holding out for savings on fruit and vegetables, after the announcement that prices have fallen.

Woolworths New Zealand says better growing conditions means some produce is up to 30 percent cheaper than this time last year.

But shoppers in Auckland say they are yet to see much of a difference.

Woolworths general manager of fruit and vegetables Ryan McMullen told Midday Report yesterday that the weather situation had "significantly improved".

"The weather patterns changed around mid-spring, and leading into summer, and got into a much more settled, normal weather pattern, where rainfall is predictable and has contributed to much better growing conditions for growers and therefore more product in the market."

Woolworths said household favourites such as lettuce were up to 40 percent cheaper.

But outside Ponsonby's Countdown supermarket - run by Woolworths - shoppers said they were still searching for savings.

"It's expensive, but everything is, it's not just fruit and vege, it's everything, everything has gone up," said one shopper.

"I think it is coming down gradually but not really enough to give you a shock," said another.

One shopper, Jackson, said if the chain could afford the rebrand from Countdown to Woolworths, it could afford to keep costs low.

"I think their prices are pretty crazy, especially when they've got all that money to rebrand for whatever reason they chose to," he said.

Statistics New Zealand data showed food price inflation was slowing to its lowest point in more than two years.

Data from February showed fruit and vegetables drove a 0.6 percent drop in the food price index last month, with smaller drops in meat and groceries.

Cheaper fresh produce was the main influence on the annual figures, offset by more expensive takeaways and restaurant meals.

Vegetables New Zealand chair John Murphy said the drop in veggie prices would make a big difference to households.

He encouraged shoppers to buy what was in season.

"If you buy what's abundant, then it helps growers," he said.

"The reason that prices come down is that we have a lot of that vegetable, so if you can learn some of the tricks about using different vegetables then you'll save quite a bit of money."

Foodstuffs - which runs the New World and Pak'nSave supermarkets, said in a statement that it had been a challenging few years keeping food prices under control.

A spokesperson for the company said they were determined to help shoppers get value at the checkout.