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Courgette Shortage Sees Record-high Prices

Courgette prices jumped 74 percent to an all-time high of $21.42 per kilo in June 2020, as imports from Queensland continued to be barred, Stats NZ said today.

Overall vegetable prices were up 7.6 percent in June, also influenced by seasonally higher prices for tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and courgettes. These rises were offset by typical falls for winter crops including potatoes, onions, and carrots.

Both tomatoes and courgettes are more expensive than usual at this time of the year.

Overall, food prices rose 0.5 percent in June, with higher vegetable prices partly offset by a 1.8 percent drop in fruit prices.

"New Zealand has a limited supply of courgettes around this time of year as the local growing season comes to an end, so we would typically see courgette imports from Australia fill the gap," consumer prices manager Sarah Johnson said.

But all imports of fresh cucurbit including courgettes from Queensland, were suspended in December 2019 due to the cucumber green mottle mosaic virus. It is still unclear when this trade suspension will end.

“The suspension is still in place and we are currently waiting for Australia to send us a proposal regarding how they are going to address the issue,” the Ministry for Primary Industries said in an email to Stats NZ.

“Courgette prices tend to peak in September, but the shortage of supply has pushed prices up to record-high levels this month, in the absence of supply from Queensland,” Mrs Johnson said.

"We have seen courgette prices briefly top $20 per kilo when imports from Australia were suspended in 2018 for the same virus.

“Foodies may need to look for cheaper substitutes in their recipes like eggplant, pumpkin, or even cabbage.”

Tomato prices up for the year

Food prices increased 4.1 percent in the year ended June 2020 with fruit and vegetable prices increasing 10.0 percent, the largest increase in over three years.

This increase was largely influenced by tomato prices, which increased 48 percent in the year to a weighted average price of $7.81 per kilo, about $2.50 more expensive than this time last year.

Carbon emission unit prices have reached historic highs, which may have caused some tomato growers to change the way they heat greenhouses.

“This will affect the supply of tomatoes and in turn the prices, particularly in the cooler southern regions,” Mrs Johnson said

There were also price increases in grocery foods (up 3.0 percent), restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food (up 3.5 percent), meat, poultry, and fish (up 3.9 percent) and non-alcoholic beverages (up 1.4 percent).

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