Tauranga shoppers feeling the pinch particularly as a result of high prices for some vegetables are being encouraged to shop around and plan to take advantage of specials.

Food prices had risen at their fastest annual pace in more than six years as increasingly expensive vegetables were made more scarce by wet autumn weather, Statistics New Zealand said.

The food price index climbed 3.1 per cent in the year to May 31 - the biggest annual increase since September 2011, when prices were artificially boosted by the hike in GST to 15 per cent.

Vegetable prices jumped 11 per cent in the month of May, but over the same period fruit prices fell 5.7 per cent.


Matthew Haigh, Statistics New Zealand's consumer prices manager, said the wet autumn had pushed vegetable prices to their highest level in almost six years last month.

"The increase was more pronounced because warmer than usual weather in the 2016 growing season resulted in cheaper than usual vegetable prices in May last year," he said.

Tauranga shopper Cam Kirk, 62, said he always shopped around to take advantage of specials and free giveaways and planned his shop to help reduce wastage.

Mr Kirk, a vegetarian, said he made lots of soups, curries and stews which meant one cook could stretch to several meals, and he also often made vege and fruit smoothies.

"My partner and I live in boarding house, and we also grow a little bit of our own veges.
There is not better than growing your own," he said.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin agreed.

Mrs Bruin said the prices of some vegetables were a bit of a worry, but overall the prices were starting to level off again.

"The prices are now a little bit more realistic. But not the price of pumpkin. I paid $4 for a quarter of pumpkin a few days ago, that means it would have cost $12 for whole one."

Mrs Bruin said her advice was to shop around and if people were still struggling they should opt for buying frozen or canned fruit and vegetables which were often cheaper.

The average family would probably spend about $50 a week on fresh fruit and vegetables, and the amount of wastage can often be quite high, she said.

Mrs Bruin said there was always other options to use the last of fruit and vege, including adding them to leftovers to make the meal go further.

A Countdown spokesperson said there were definite challenges at the moment across a variety of fruit and veges around the country due to the weather.

"Overall there is less supply available as produce is obviously highly susceptible to weather conditions," the spokesperson said.

"We have really good direct relationships with our local growers and suppliers so we're doing what we can to ensure we have supply wherever possible, at a good price for our customers."

Antoinette Laird, head of external relations for Foodstuffs NZ, the company which owns New World and Pak'nSave, said fruit and vege prices were subject to supply and demand.

"The extremely wet weather we had in April destroyed both produce that was ready for harvesting as well as recently planted seedlings. This means the effects of the bad weather are still being felt, many weeks later," she said.

Ms Laird said supply issues might continue through the winter months, but people should see an improvement when the warmer spring weather arrived.