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Food Prices Fall 0.5 Percent

Food Price Index: February 2002

Food prices fell 0.5 percent in February 2002, according to latest figures from Statistics New Zealand. The decrease in February was mainly due to lower prices for a wide range of grocery food items and a fall in fresh vegetable prices.

Grocery food prices fell by 0.9 percent in February 2002, making the most significant contribution to the overall drop in food prices. Boxed chocolates recorded the most significant decrease among the grocery food items, recording a fall of 10.0 percent, influenced by Valentine's Day specials. Other significant decreases were recorded for chocolate biscuits (down 6.3 percent) and potato crisps (down 2.3 percent).

Fruit and vegetable prices fell by 1.7 percent in February and were driven by a fall of 6.3 percent in fresh vegetable prices. This follows a rise of 15.2 percent in fresh vegetables in January 2002, largely the result of difficult growing conditions in many parts of the country. In February 2002, significant decreases were recorded for tomatoes (down 14.2 percent), potatoes (down 7.2 percent) and cauliflower (down 19.2 percent), after adjusting for normal seasonal change.

Meat, fish and poultry prices also fell in February, recording a decrease of 0.2 percent, following a 0.2 percent increase in January 2002. The decline in February was driven by falls of 1.9 percent in lamb prices and 0.8 percent in poultry prices. These falls were partly offset by an increase of 0.6 percent in beef prices in February 2002. Generally, beef prices have risen over the five and a half year period from April 1996 to November 2001. However, prices fell in December 2001 and January 2002 by 1.0 and 1.3 percent respectively.

Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices rose by 0.4 percent in February 2002. This increase was driven by a rise of 2.0 percent in hot pizza prices.

From February 2001 to February 2002, food prices rose 4.5 percent. This >is the first time that the annual increase in food prices has been less than 5 percent since a rise of 4.0 percent in the year to January 2001. Meat, fish and poultry prices recorded an 11.2 percent increase in the year to February 2002, and over the same period grocery food, soft drinks and confectionery prices rose 4.9 percent. Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices rose 4.4 percent from February 2001 to February 2002 while fruit and vegetable prices decreased by 4.4 percent.

Brian Pink
Government Statistician

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