Food prices in New Zealand have risen 7.6 percent in the last year - the highest annual increase in over a decade, Statistics NZ said on Wednesday.
The data release comes before an announcement by the Reserve Bank this afternoon on the Official Cash Rate.
The 7.6 percent increase in food prices between March 2021 and March 2022 was the largest increase since 2011, when prices rose 7.9 percent on the previous year, influenced by a GST increase from 12.5 percent to 15 percent in October 2010.
The highest increase was in fruit and vegetable prices, which rose a whopping 18 percent.
"Average prices for vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, iceberg lettuce, and cabbage were notably higher than they were in March 2020 and 2021,” consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said.
Fruit and vegetable prices also rose 1.2 percent in March from February, influenced by higher prices for cabbage, tomatoes, strawberries, and kumara.
“The average price of cabbage increased 28 percent in March, from $3.92 to $5.03 per kilogram,” Dewbery said.
Meat, poultry and fish also rose 8.7 percent in the last year, while staple groceries rose 6.7 percent. One kilo blocks of cheese jumped from $10.64 in March 2021 to $12.24 in March 2022, an increase of 15 percent. Two litre bottles of milk also rose from $3.59 to $3.88.
Meanwhile, restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices increased 5.1% and non-alcoholic beverage prices increased 2.7 percent.
Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark took aim at Foodstuffs and Woolworths for the sharp increase in prices, saying they were making profits at the expense of New Zealanders.
“Rising food prices is a global issue. Omicron, ongoing disruptions to global supply chains and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is putting pressure on prices in every country, but that is exacerbated here by the lack of competition at the checkout," Clark said.
“Even at their conservative estimate, the market study found that the major grocery retailers were earning excess profits of around $1 million a day, well above what would be expected in a workably competitive market.
“The average return of the major grocery retailers at over 12 percent was more than double the rate of normal return for grocery retailing in New Zealand of 5.5 percent.
“No matter how you cut it, it’s clear that New Zealanders are paying too much for their food and groceries."
Clark said the Government was committed to paving the way for other supermarket chains to enter the New Zealand grocery market and increase competition.
However, National's finance spokesperson Nicola Willis said Labour needed to "stop playing the blame game".
“The Government should rein in its big spending plans, hit pause on plans to add more costs to business and prioritise tax relief for the squeezed middle.
“Right now the biggest beneficiary of runaway inflation is the Finance Minister – who will rake in billions more in tax receipts as a result. He should put New Zealanders first and give them some relief."
Top Image: People at a market picking onions. (File photo) Photo: Michael Madden-Smith/Re:
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