By Rebecca Howard
Oct. 11 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand food prices eased in September, led by cheaper fruit and vegetables, including a 45 percent fall in lettuce prices.
Food prices eased 0.1 percent in September, but were up 0.3 percent after seasonal adjustment. Lettuce prices fell to an average $1.81 for a 500g head, from $3.26 in August and an all-time high of $5.42 in July when the weather had been poor, Statistics New Zealand said.
"Since then we’ve had two major price falls, which meant lettuce prices reached an unseasonably low level this September," consumer prices manager Geraldine Duoba said.
Vegetable prices fell 8.7 percent in September, influenced by lower prices for lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. However, meat and poultry prices rose 2 percent, influenced by higher prices for beef and chicken. Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices rose 0.2 percent.
Compared with a year earlier, food prices lifted 0.1 percent, driven by a 3.5 percent lift in ready-to-eat food prices and a 2.2 percent lift in milk, cheese and eggs. Declines in vegetable and fruit prices, down 8.9 percent and 3.6 percent respectively, helped keep overall food inflation low for the year, Stats NZ said.
The tepid lift in food prices will add to the view that inflation overall remains muted and monetary policy will continue to be stimulatory.
At its latest cash rate review, the Reserve Bank kept rates on hold at a record low 1.75 percent and reiterated that it could move to cut rates if the economy fails to fire.