New Zealand food prices rose in January, as apples surged to a record high, leading gains in fruit and vegetables.

Food prices rose 0.9 per cent, seasonally adjusted, in January from December, and gained 1.4 per cent from January 2016, Statistics New Zealand said. On an unadjusted basis, food prices climbed 2.8 per cent in the latest month.

Fruit and vegetables led gains in both the month and the year, up 8.5 per cent (unadjusted) and 3.1 per cent respectively. Apples, which have been in short supply in supermarkets, were an average $5.04 a kilogram in January, from $3.60/kg in December, reaching their highest since the series began. Fruit prices jumped 12 per cent, or 2.9 per cent seasonally adjusted, while vegetables gained 5.9 per cent, or 1.4 per cent seasonally adjusted, with gains in potatoes, broccoli and carrots.

The food price index accounts for about 19 per cent of the consumers price index, which is the Reserve Bank's mandated inflation target when setting interest rates. The central bank expects inflation to accelerate to a 1.5 per cent annual pace in the first quarter, having returned to within its 1 per cent-to-3 per cent target band for the first time in two years in the fourth quarter.


Prices of meat, poultry and fish rose 2.4 per cent in January, with lamb up 11 per cent and chicken rising 4 per cent, but fell 1.1 per cent from the same month last year. Chicken prices fell 7.2 per cent in the year and have declined on an annual basis since June 2015.

Grocery foods rose 2.4 per cent, or 1.4 per cent seasonally adjusted, in January and increased 1.8 per cent from a year earlier. Chocolate prices gained 14 per cent in the month and fresh milk rose 4.4 per cent.

Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices rose 0.2 per cent in the month and 1.8 per cent in the year.