John Weekes

John Weekes is an NZME. News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Consumer Watch: Fresh favourites aplenty

Conditions are good for growing fruit and veges.

Student Emily Sunde finds it cheaper to eat at home. Photo / Doug Sherring
Student Emily Sunde finds it cheaper to eat at home. Photo / Doug Sherring

The outlook for fans of fresh produce looks good after stunning weather in the first half of summer.

Bumper crops in the countryside, however, don't always guarantee cheap prices on shop shelves.

Horticulture New Zealand president Andrew Fenton said most of New Zealand had experienced good growing conditions so far. He said production of household favourites, including sweetcorn and asparagus, were promising.

For consumers, Fenton said there were few price spikes expected when summer crops reached shops. "The only exception to that might be avocados, which are quite expensive because the crop's quite short."

Staff at The Barrow, in Auckland City, said they'd noticed a rise in demand for blueberries, while the current tomato season should bring low prices.

Tomatoes are New Zealand's most popular produce. In the December 2012 quarter, tomato prices plummeted to about half of the previous quarter, Statistics NZ said.

Lettuce and capsicum had similar results.

Fresh produce fan Emily Sunde has become used to high living costs after moving from Whangarei to Auckland a year ago. But she was surprised an 840g bunch of vine tomatoes was only $4.20 at New World in the central city.

Sunde's food choices don't match the student stereotype.

"I find it definitely cheaper to buy food than to eat out. I don't buy a lot of processed food." She said plums were too expensive this week at $4.99kg but kiwifruit was a good price at $4.49.

Recruitment agent Janine Roxburgh said lettuce and avocados were too expensive and she hadn't seen any good discounts on fresh produce lately. She thought tomatoes were overpriced and she would expect to pay only $3 for the bunch we showed her.

Fenton said the outlook was good for consumers unless a major weather event hit.

Stonefruit output was a tale of two provinces.

"In one of the main growing regions, Hawke's Bay, the weather has been outstanding, which has resulted in very good quality fruit," Summerfruit NZ market manager Emma Logan said.

However, the country's second biggest stonefruit region, Central Otago, has had a shocker. "They've had appallingly bad weather since just after Christmas," said Logan. That wet weather down south hasn't affected the overall national supply though.

High output did not guarantee low prices. When word of good-quality fruit gets around, demand rises. Logan said consumers associated stonefruit with summer weather. Sunny skies boosted demand for cherries, apricots, nectarines, peaches and plums.

Other crops being harvested are onions. A good berry season has just finished, with a bumper crop of boysenberries, raspberries and blueberries. On apple orchards, job placements are opening as the picking season begins.

- Herald on Sunday

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