Vegetable prices continue to grow

Courgettes and cucumbers reached record-high prices in July 2020, rising more than 30 percent in the month, as Queensland imports continued to be banned, Stats NZ said today.

Fruit and vegetable prices were up 9.8 percent in July 2020.

Courgette prices rose 38 percent to a weighted average price of $29.60 per kilo, up from a previous record high of $21.42 per kilo in June. Some reports showed courgettes prices reaching up to $38.99 per kilo (see Would you pay $39 a kilo for zucchini?).

Imports of fresh courgettes, cucumbers, and other cucurbit from Queensland have been banned this year because of a plant virus.

“During the winter months, without the usual imports to fill the gap in local supply, we have seen a sharp rise in courgette prices,” consumer prices manager Nicola Growden said.

“In July, courgettes cost almost as much as a kilo of either sirloin steak or fresh fish.”

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Courgette shortage sees record-high prices has more information on the current Queensland trade suspension.

“Prices for courgettes typically fall when the New Zealand growing season picks up in spring or it could change when imports from Queensland resume,” Mrs Growden said.

Cucumber prices rose almost 32 percent in July to a record high of $18.63 per kilo. This is $6.54 more than this time last year, reflecting the impact of the ban on imports from Australia.

Overall food prices rose 1.2 percent in July 2020, mainly influenced by seasonally higher prices for tomatoes, lettuce, and broccoli.

“We tend to see many vegetables reaching peak prices around July during the middle of winter, as the local supply of many crops is limited,” Mrs Growden said.

This rise has been partly offset by grocery food prices falling 1.1 percent in July, mainly because of cheaper dairy products.

In July 2020, decreases in dairy food were led by:

  • fresh milk, down 3.2 percent
  • cheese (gourmet types), down 6.5 percent
  • cheese (cheddar), down 3.4 percent
  • butter, down 2.8 percent.

“Dairy prices are influenced by global prices, with the global dairy trade auction price for cheddar down over 21 percent between 21 April and 2 June,” Mrs Growden said.

We typically see domestic dairy prices follow global price trends after a lag of about three to six months.

Higher food prices influenced by increasing labour costs

Eating out has become more expensive as restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food increased 3.9 percent for the year ended July 2020. Overall food prices increased 4.2 percent in the year.

“The increase in the minimum wage in April coincided with the increase in the cost of restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food,” Mrs Growden said.

The minimum wage rose from $17.70 to $18.90 .

“Some food sellers may have adjusted their prices when they reopened after the COVID-19 restrictions eased,” Mrs Growden said.

In the year to July 2020, increases in food prices were also influenced by:

  • fruit and vegetables, up 18.6 percent
  • grocery food, up 1.3 percent
  • meat, poultry, and fish, up 1.7 percent.
  • non-alcoholic beverages, up 1.5 percent.

/Stats NZ Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.