Chicken prices lowest in nearly four years

Fruit and vegetables for sale at Harbourside market, Wellington. Photo by Lynn Grieveson

New Zealand food prices edged up in April as the cost of takeaway food and tomatoes rose, while chicken prices fell to near a four year low.

Statistics NZ said food prices advanced 0.1 percent in April from March as higher prices for ready-to-eat and grocery foods were offset by a drop for meat and many vegetables – except for tomatoes, which more than doubled in price in just two months.

“Prices for restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food usually increase steadily over time; however, these items all rose more than usual in April,” Stats NZ consumer prices manager Geraldine Duoba said in a statement. “The minimum wage increase of 75 cents to $16.50 an hour on 1 April may have been a factor, as labour costs make up a significant proportion of these businesses’ costs.”

Ready-to-eat food prices rose 0.7 percent in April, with a 1.6 percent increase in the price of ethnic food, a 0.7 percent gain in takeaway coffee, and a 1 percent rise in takeaway pizza.

Vegetable prices declined 1.6 percent in April as the price of lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower all fell strongly, following high prices in March. After adjusting for seasonal movements, vegetable prices fell 5.1 percent, Stats NZ said.

“While vegetable prices fell in April, tomato prices continued to rise,” Duoba said. “Tomato prices rose 41 percent this month, following a more than 60 percent rise in March.”

Meat prices fell in April, with poultry prices falling 4.5 percent. Stats NZ said a 1kg pack of chicken pieces was $7.63 in April, down from $8.16 in March, and $8.10 in April 2017, marking the lowest price since the series began in June 2014.

Food prices in April were 2.3 percent higher than April last year, the statistics agency said.

For the year to April, prices for meat and poultry increased 1 percent with pork up 12 percent and lamb up 17 percent. Those increases were offset by cheaper poultry prices, which fell 6.8 percent in the latest year. Beef prices remained flat annually.

The food price index accounts for about 19 percent of the consumers' price index, which is the Reserve Bank's mandated inflation target when setting interest rates.