Cheaper avocados and strawberries spearhead fruit price fall
Cheaper avocados and strawberries have helped bring down July fruit prices.
Avocado prices fell 29 per cent this month, coming off a near-record high in June, Statistics New Zealand said.
A punnet of strawberries is also a cheaper buy this month compared with last. The average price was $5.92, compared with $7.71 in June.
The 5.2 per cent fruit price fall contributed to an overall 0.2 per cent drop in food prices, Stats NZ said.
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Statistics New Zealand consumer prices manager Matthew Haigh said strawberries were "unseasonably cheap" for this time of year.
"They typically reach their lowest price in December, but are currently dropping in price due to more imports from Australia."
Data from Stats NZ showed a 58 per cent increase in the quantity of strawberries brought into the country in June compared to a year ago.
World of Fresh Produce distributor AJ Jina said at this time of year strawberries were all imported.
He said Australia was having a "flush" at the moment, but inclement weather on the Queensland coast could jeopardise this.
"We import billions of dollars of year worth of product from Queensland, not just strawberries - melons, beans, even courgettes."
Arthur Rakich a grower at Danube Orchards in Whenuapai, northwest of Auckland, said consumers would not see New Zealand strawberries on shelves until the end of September.
"This year's season could be even later with all the rain we've been getting."
He said he hoped imports would tail off by peak season, around December, to keep prices reasonable for local farmers.
Jina said the "warm and wet" weather now could raise prices on strawberries three months down the line.
"We need the winter to have some cold snaps as well, it helps set the fruit and set blossoms."
He said low lake levels in Southland could also affect fruit crops later in the season.
In contrast to fruit, vegetable prices rose 1.6 per cent in July, driven by the higher cost of cucumbers and tomatoes.
Kumaras have reached a new record high price of $8.39 a kilogram, up 170 per cent from last year and up 2.6 per cent from last month.
Eating out or buying ready-to-eat food is also taking a bigger bite out of wallets, with the cost of prepared meals up 2.2 per cent on last year.
The 2.5 per cent jump in the cost of restaurant meals was the largest annual increase since October 2013.
It is not an inconsequential price jump, given how often New Zealanders eat out.
Stats NZ found that out of every $100 New Zealanders spent on food, around $23 went on restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food.
Haigh said the increase in restaurant meals was likely a result of higher vegetable and dairy prices.
Vegetable prices increased 12 per cent in the year to July 2017, and were the main contributor to the 3 per cent annual increase in food prices.
Grocery food prices increased 3.1 per cent, led by higher dairy prices, especially fresh milk.