Meat, poultry behind big annual jump in food prices

The overall annual increase in food prices is the largest since September 2011.
The overall annual increase in food prices is the largest since September 2011. Photo credit: Getty

Higher prices for meat, poultry, and fish were big contributors to the largest annual rise in food prices in over eight years.

New Stats NZ figures show a 3.5 percent increase in food prices for the year ended January 2020.

"Meat, poultry, and fish prices have increased 6.0 percent in the year. Restaurant and ready-to-eat meals increased 3.4 percent, while fruit and vegetable prices were up 2.7 percent," said consumer prices manager Sarah Johnson.

"Both beef mince and blade steak prices reached all-time highs in January, while bacon and lamb prices have increased sharply in the past 12 months," she said.

 Decreased pork production in China during 2019 had increased export demand for New Zealand meat products, pushing prices up.

"While prices for red and processed meats have increased, prices for poultry have remained relatively flat, decreasing 0.2 percent in the year to January."

Prices for fish and other seafood also saw a modest increase, up 4.1 percent in the year ended January.

The increases were partly offset by decreasing prices for iceberg lettuce (down 34 percent), onions (down 15 percent), and honey (down 21 percent).

The overall annual increase in food prices is the largest since September 2011, when prices increased 4.7 percent and was influenced by a rise in GST in October 2010.

Meanwhile higher prices for apples and strawberries contributed to a 2.1 percent rise in food prices for the January 2020 month, compared with the same month in 2019.

"Apple prices generally peak in January. Between December 2019 and January 2020, apple prices rose 22 percent to a weighted average price of $4.62 per kilogram." 

In January 2019, the weighted average price for apples was $3.98 per kilogram.

Strawberry prices were also up, rising 68 percent in the month.

Large bottled soft drinks (up 8.8 percent), broccoli (up 58 percent), and yoghurt (up 8.4 percent) also contributed to the rise.

"We often see food prices rise in January following falls in December, as items go off Christmas specials."

"Food prices rose 1.0 percent in January 2019, 1.2 percent in January 2018, and 2.8 percent in January 2017."

The rises in the January 2020 month were partly offset by falls in prices of nectarines (down 23 percent), tomatoes (down 9.4 percent), and cabbages (down 19 percent).