Food prices soared the most since 1989 in the year to February, with recent weather events pushing fruit and vegetables up 6 per cent in the last month alone.
Fruit and vegetables were the largest contributors to the monthly movement. Within this group, the items having the greatest impact were broccoli, tomatoes, and lettuce, StatsNZ said.
Overall food prices were 12 per cent higher in February 2023 than they were in February 2022, according to figures released by StatsNZ today.
Grocery food was the largest contributor to this movement across the full year.
Economists warn they expect more rises to come and the storm events could push the overall inflation rate (which had plateaued) to a new 30-year high later this year.
ASB senior economist Mark Smith said there appeared to be “a tangible impact of North Island storms on retail food prices, and we anticipate further upside in the coming months.
“We expect quarterly rises in food prices to push above 4 per cent, contributing at least 0.7 percentage points to quarterly CPI readings in the first half of this year.”
That meant annual CPI inflation potentially could hit a fresh 30-year high in the first half of 2023.
The RBNZ clearly had more work to do to convince wage and price setters that inflation was on track to settle below 3 per cent, he said.
The second-largest contributor to the annual movement was fruit and vegetables.
The biggest increases were seen in tomatoes (117 per cent increase) and in potatoes (48 per cent increase).
Fruit and vegetable prices increased by 23 per cent for the year. The broader grocery category was up 12 per cent.
Increasing prices for barn or cage-raised eggs, potato chips, and cheddar cheese were the largest drivers within the grocery food category.
Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices increased by 8.4 per cent. Meat, poultry and fish prices increased by 9.8 per cent and non-alcoholic beverage prices increased by 9.1 per cent.
In February 2023, the annual increase was due to rises across all the broad food categories Stats NZ measures, compared with February 2022.
The rises come as signs were emerging that overall inflation has peaked.
Annual CPI inflation was 7.2 per cent for the 2022 year.