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Affordable food prices an absolute necessity

15 July 2008

Affordable food prices an absolute necessity: Greens

The Government needs to step in and help struggling New Zealanders, by increasing benefit levels and extending the $60 a week in work payment, in light of today's announcement of record high food prices, the Green Party says.

Food prices increased 8.2 percent for the year to June 2008, the highest annual increase since June 1990. Dairy foods rose at a much higher rate, with milk up 22 percent, cheddar cheese up 61 percent and butter up 86.6 percent. Dairy prices are set to rise again by the end of July.

"Many basic healthy foods are becoming unaffordable for many people, and this is putting our children at risk," Green Party Consumer Affairs Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford says it is cruel that some children aren't getting enough food to eat. She says it is vital to increase benefit levels and extend the $60 a week in-work payment of Working for Families to beneficiary families.

"The minimum wage needs to be increased as well, to keep up with inflation.

"Professor Innes Asher from the Paediatrics department at Auckland University, who works at Starship Children's Hospital, has said people working in child health have seen a rise in infectious diseases related to household income being inadequate, and undernourished children presenting for treatment. Professor Asher has called for the provision of free food to preschoolers and children at low-decile schools," Ms Bradford says.

"I totally support Professor Asher's call. It's terrible that children are going hungry in a food-producing country like New Zealand. The provision of adequate, healthy food is paramount when children's bodies and brains are developing."

Ms Kedgley says the record food prices increase the need for a Commerce Commission-led Food Price Inquiry - to investigate whether tougher competition law is needed in New Zealand - where two supermarket chains sell 94 percent of our groceries.

"And I reiterate the Green Party's challenge to Fonterra to cap the cost of milk for New Zealanders. Fonterra should stop charging inflated international prices for products that are produced right here in New Zealand."

ENDS

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