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Tomatoes Main Cause of Food Price Rise

Tomatoes Main Cause of Food Price Rise

Food prices in January 2000 were 2.4 per cent higher than in December 1999 according to latest figures from Statistics New Zealand.

Compared with a year earlier food prices in January 2000 were 1.1 per cent higher, said Deputy Government Statistician Ian Ewing. This is the first annual increase after five consecutive annual decreases were recorded.

The major contributor driving up the January price level were tomatoes, which doubled in price and contributed almost half of the total Food Price Index movement. Citrus fruit, bread, potato crisps and snack foods along with potatoes also recorded significant price increases.

Fruit and vegetable prices increased by 12.5 per cent in January 2000. This is the second increase in this subgroup after seven consecutive months of decreases which commenced in May 1999. In January 2000, fresh vegetable prices rose 28.7 per cent, while fresh fruit prices increased by only 0.2 per cent. Overall fruit and vegetable prices in the North Island increased by 14.8 per cent and in the South Island they rose by 5.3 per cent from December 1999. Tomato price increases contributed approximately 75 per cent of the fruit and vegetables price rise. On an annual basis fruit and vegetable prices are 0.5 per cent lower than in January 1999.

The next most significant upward contribution to the Food Price Index in January 2000 came from the grocery food, soft drinks and confectionery subgroup. Grocery food prices increased 1.4 per cent in January 2000 following a decrease of 1.0 per cent in the December 1999 month. The main contributors to the increase came from bread; potato crisps and snack food; frozen or chilled meat pies; and biscuits. Overall, grocery food prices were 0.8 per cent higher in January 2000 than in January 1999.

The January Food Price Index was significantly influenced by the jump in tomato prices and by a higher proportion of grocery food items going off 'special' than going on 'special'. These influences have combined to give an unusually high overall increase in the January 2000 month. There is already evidence of tomato prices falling in early February.

Price increases for steak and lamb roasts were mainly responsible for the 0.5 per cent increase in the meat, fish and poultry subgroup in January. Compared with a year earlier, meat, fish and poultry prices are 2.5 per cent higher than in January 1999.

On a regional basis, 14 of the 15 centres recorded increases in food prices in January 2000. Wellington recorded the largest increase, while Christchurch recorded a small decrease.

Ian Ewing


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