Food staples up, but chocolate cheapest in years

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 14:25 15/01/2014

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Prices for "bread and butter" food staples increased last year, while snack and junk foods were cheaper, according to the latest food price index.

Overall food prices rose 1.5 per cent in the year to December 31, according to Statistics NZ.

The largest price rises were for lamb (up 16.7 per cent), yoghurt (up 10 per cent), milk, (up 9.4 per cent), and cheese (up 7.7 per cent).

Higher prices for cooking oils (up 6.6 per cent), coffee (up 4.4 per cent) and chicken (up 4.1 per cent) would also cause pain at the supermarket checkout.

Statistics NZ price manager Chris Pike said the increases were partly offset by lower prices for confectionery, nuts, and snacks which were down 4.4 per cent throughout the final half of 2013 due to discounting.

Fruit and vegetables prices fell 2.2 per cent in the year to December, partly driven by cheaper pumpkins, grapes, and avocados.

Statistics NZ said diary, meat and grain products were edging closer to peak prices with cheese just 1.8 per cent below its peak price in July 2011.

Dining out also became more expensive over the course of 2013, with restaurant and ready-to-eat meals rising 1.9 per cent.

However, the overall food bill was slightly cheaper in December than in November mainly driven by cheaper seasonal vegetables (down 1.1 per cent) and pre-Christmas discounting of non-alcoholic beverages (down 2.1 per cent), chocolate, confectionery and snack foods (down 1.9 per cent).

Chocolate was the cheapest it has been since 2008, Statistics NZ said.

Discounting did not extend to kitchen staples leading up to Christmas, with meat, fish, poultry, pasta, fruit, bread and milk all more expensive in December than in November.

Food price changes from December 2012 to December 2013:

- Overall food prices rose 1.5 per cent.

- Fruit and vegetable prices dropped 2.2 per cent.

- Meat, poultry, and fish prices rose 1.6 per cent.

- Grocery food prices rose 2.0 per cent.

- Non-alcoholic beverage prices rose 3.0 per cent.

- Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices rose 1.9 per cent.

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