Pricey Produce Drives Highest Annual Food Price Increase in a Decade

According to Stats NZ, tomato prices doubled in 2021, driving the highest annual food price increase in a decade.

Ongoing labour shortages due to Covid-19 and a virus affecting tomato crops combined to push the price of the salad staple up by 99 percent in the year to December 2021.

“The weighted average price of a kilogram of tomatoes increased from $3.33 in December 2020 to $6.61 in December 2021,” noted Stats NZ consumer prices manager, Katrina Dewbery.

The spike in tomato prices was the main contributor to a 4.5 percent in food prices over the same period, the largest annual increase since September 2011, when prices rose by 4.7 percent.

Earlier this month, Countdown spokeswoman Kiri Hannifin said higher tomato prices were being driven by reduced availability.

“Currently, a disease called Pepino mosaic virus (PepMV) is impacting New Zealand growers, this affects how quickly tomatoes grow and the yield in which the plants produce,” she said.

“Due, in part, to the impact of this disease, New Zealand growers have generally planted fewer tomatoes due to their inability to export.”

Higher prices for tomatoes were partly offset by cheaper prices for kiwifruit, kumara, and avocados. Higher prices for potatoes, onions, and apples were partly offset by lower prices for nectarines, courgettes, and cucumbers. Grocery foods, including yoghurt, milk and eggs, had the biggest impact on the annual food prices, increasing 4.5 percent overall.

Although restaurant meal prices increased 5.1 percent, households spend more on grocery food. Therefore, price changes for grocery food have more impact on the index.