Fruit, vege prices jump in Wairarapa

By Teuila Fuatai

Wairarapa residents paid more for fresh fruit and vegetables last year despite an overall decrease in food prices.

Budget advisers warn that low-income families can't afford to eat healthy meals and want GST dropped on healthy food.

Analysis of prices for the 12 months to December showed avocados and kumara more than doubled in price, pumpkin prices surged 32 per cent and apples cost 20 per cent more, Statistics NZ said.

However, lamb prices dropped dramatically and take-away pizzas were much cheaper. Milk, cheese and bread were also more affordable.

Local budget services guru Grant Howard says high prices for fresh produce are making it near-impossible for many people to get their recommended "five-plus-a-day" intake.

"People eat cheaper options, which is not healthy for them," Mr Howard said.

The only way to combat this was to remove GST from food, the Wairarapa Free Budget Advisory Service manager said.

"That's the easiest solution for everybody; low-income and medium-income earners."

However, the suggestion is unlikely to come to fruition. The National Government has previously slammed proposals to remove GST from healthy food products, and while Labour toyed with the concept during Phil Goff's stint as leader, David Shearer has since backtracked on the notion.

Mr Howard said a meal of fish and chips could cost as little as $10 for a family of four.

"If you bought fresh fish and potatoes, you couldn't make it any cheaper," he said.

"Fish is so dear anyway [that] most of us couldn't afford it unless we caught it ourselves."

Statistics NZ price manager Chris Pike said a monthly decline in non-alcoholic beverage prices reflected lower overall food prices last month. Prices were down 0.2 per cent in December and 1 per cent year-on-year.

Soft drinks, coffee and fruit juice prices fell by 2.6 per cent, 5.6 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively for the month.

A study led by the University of Otago published last week in the British Medical Journal found the risk of children being obese and overweight increased as more sugary drinks were consumed.

Lisa Te Morenga and Professor Jim Mann, lead authors of the study, urged a stronger focus on nutritional information targeting sugar intake.

"It seems easier to overeat if your diet includes lots of sugary foods and drinks. When you overeat you gain weight," Dr Te Morenga said.

Heart Foundation national nutrition adviser Delvina Gorton said: "Ideally we'd like to see the prices of fruit and veges going down to encourage people to eat more and the price of sugary drinks, which we want people to have less of, going up."

Look for fruit and vege specials, she said. APNZ


Food prices - annual change to December 2012

Fruit and vegetables up 6 per cent:

Kumara up 109 per cent

Avocado up 107 per cent

Pumpkin up 32 per cent

Apples up 20 per cent

Grocery food down 3.6 per cent:

Fresh milk down 9.4 per cent

Cheese down 8.2 per cent

Bread down 4.2 per cent

Meat, poultry and fish down 2.1 per cent

Lamb down 24 per cent

Poultry up 2.8 per cent

Pork down 3.7 per cent

Take-away pizza down 12 per cent


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