Uncertainty for growers drives up tomato prices

Tomato prices have been particularly low over the last three months.
Tomato prices have been particularly low over the last three months. Photo credit: Getty

Tomatoes saw their biggest monthly price rise in 10 years last month, as growers face uncertainty for the year ahead.

Prices in April rose to a weighted average of $6.34/kg, compared to March when they cost $2.98/kg.

Despite more than doubling, prices were still down on the record high of $13.65/kg they reached in August last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a tomato shortage. 

Stats NZ consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said tomato prices have been "particularly low" over the last three months.

"Tomatoes NZ confirmed there was an oversupply in the domestic market as growers struggled to get their tomatoes exported due to a shortage of freight and a rising cost of shipping resulting from COVID-19," Dewberry said on Thursday.

The oversupply led to supermarkets selling the fruit at a record-low price of $0.08/kg at one point in March.

Dewberry said the recent rise in price reflects the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on growers.

"Tomato growers are facing a lot of uncertainty regarding exports, influencing their plan for replanting tomato crops."

She said tomatoes prices in April increased 67 percent from a weighted average of $3.80/kg a year ago.

Cucumbers also had a considerable rise in price in April, increasing 50 percent compared to March.

The weighted average price in April was $12.41/kg compared with $8.25/kg in March.

Not all fruit and vegetables were more expensive though, with kiwifruit prices falling 28 percent.

"Kiwifruit is a highly seasonal fruit whose price usually peaks around March towards the end of its season," says Dewbery. 

"The weighted average price of kiwifruit was $6.01 per kilo in April, dropped from $8.39 per kilo in March."

The data showed fruit and vegetable prices rose 4.8 percent in April, while overall food prices were up 1.1 percent.