Budgeting expert urges struggling Kiwis to consider local markets for fresh produce as prices surge

An Auckland budgeting expert is urging Kiwis to consider turning to local markets as the prices of fruit and vegetables in supermarkets become "ridiculously expensive".

Prices of many fresh fruits and vegetables rose in April, including tomatoes which leapt from $2.98/kg in March to $6.34/kg in April, and cucumbers which increased 50 percent in a month.

Stats NZ said on Thursday the price rises for the two fruits (often thought of as vegetables) were the main contributor to a 1.1 percent rise in food prices in April.

Darryl Evans, chief executive of Māngere Budgeting Services, said fresh produce is "ridiculously expensive" and is out of reach for many New Zealanders.

"Through our healthy kai cooking programme there are kids that turn up and we might, for example, have a pineapple or papaya - they don't know what it is.  We will ask - 'where does a pineapple come from' - We literally asked a kid 'where do bananas come from?' The answer was 'the jungle'. 

"It's because the parents are not buying them because they cannot afford them.  The average family this year is left with $39 after paying for rent, power and petrol to feed a family of four."

He said "unfortunately it's true" that many families survive on only one meal a day, and many don't include fresh fruit or vegetables.

"If you go to places like Pak'nSave Mangere, you will see large numbers of Māori and Pasifika families and the trolley is half full of two-minute noodles. More often than not they don't bulk it up with fresh fruit and veggies cause the cost is too much. There's nothing wrong with a noodle now and again but you have got to bulk it with healthier food and less flavouring."

Evans is urging struggling Kiwis to find other ways to find fresh produce without paying supermarket prices.

"The reality is the vast majority of our families don't buy fresh fruit and veggies.  We tell them there are alternatives. You don't have to go to the supermarket, go to the markets like Avondale market, Otara (HAT), Clendon - you can get better deals. Go with a friend and buy larger quantities and split the price and the product."