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Food Prices Stable in August

Food Price Index: August 2000

Food prices remained unchanged between July and August, but were 2.0 per cent higher than in August 1999, according to Statistics New Zealand. The grocery food, soft drinks and confectionery subgroup and the fruit and vegetables subgroup made downward contributions to August's nil movement, while the meat, fish and poultry subgroup and restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food subgroup provided upward contributions.

Price increases in the meat, fish and poultry subgroup were offset by price decreases in the grocery food, soft drinks and confectionery subgroup. The fall in the grocery food, soft drinks and confectionery subgroup was dominated by items which have consistently displayed considerable short term volatility over the past 12 months. The rise in domestic meat prices reflects exchange-rate influenced increases in export prices.

The grocery food, soft drinks and confectionery subgroup fell by 0.4 per cent, the most significant downward contribution to the Food Price Index in August 2000. This follows rises of 0.2 per cent in the months of May, June and July 2000. Many of the items in this subgroup have exhibited little movement over the past year, but are volatile on a month to month basis. The main items pushing down the subgroup this month were chocolate confectionery, bread and bread rolls, potato crisps and frozen or chilled meat pies. Price rises were recorded for fruit juice, soft drinks and milk. This subgroup is only 0.5 per cent higher than a year ago, despite fuel prices rising sharply during the period and the dollar weakening substantially.

Higher prices for fresh and frozen poultry contributed to a 1.4 per cent increase in the meat, fish and poultry subgroup in August 2000. Other price rises this month included lamb and beef mince. Partially offsetting these increases were decreases for steak and pork. The meat, fish and poultry subgroup is now 5.3 per cent higher than in August 1999. This annual increase is the highest recorded since a 5.7 per cent increase was recorded for the year to December 1998. Lamb prices are 14.4 per cent higher than in August 1999 and beef prices are 13.4 per cent higher.

The restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food subgroup rose by 0.2 per cent in August 2000, after last month recording the largest monthly rise since November 1989. The restaurant meals section rose by 0.1 per cent this month while the ready-to-eat food section rose by 0.2 per cent. Annually, this subgroup is 2.6 per cent higher than in August 1999, the largest annual increase since 2.8 per cent in the August 1991 month.

The fruit and vegetables subgroup fell by 0.2 per cent in the August 2000 month. Fresh vegetable prices rose 0.6 per cent this month after falling 6.5 per cent in July 2000 and rising 16.5 per cent in June 2000. This month's fall was mainly due to price decreases for salad greens and stone fruit. Seasonally adjusted prices for tomatoes made the most significant upward item contribution in the August 2000 month after making the most significant downward item contribution to the Food Price Index in July.

Ian Ewing DEPUTY GOVERNMENT STATISTICIAN

END

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