It is getting tougher to be a meat eater, as price surges of 21 per cent for bacon, 14 per cent for lamb chops and 13 per cent for beef mince have contributed to the largest annual rise in food prices for eight years, Stats NZ says.

The agency said beef and blade steak prices reached all-time highs last month, pushed up by increased export demand from China, which has had more than half of its pig population wiped out by the African swine fever (ASF) epidemic.

Meat Industry Association data showed that China took 57 per cent more New Zealand red meat last year, importing $3.7 billion worth of meat, of which almost half — $1.7 billion worth — was in beef products.

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In the pork market, New Zealand produces about 40 per cent of the 110,000 tonnes it consumes, the bulk imported from North America and the EU.

NZ Pork general manager David Baines said about 85 per cent of imported pork products were used in bacon and the rest in other processed food such as ham, sausages, marinated and injected pork products.

"ASF has put considerable pressure on international pork supply, with consequent price rises. The better return has been a welcome relief to New Zealand farmers, who had continued to face margin challenges to meet growing volumes of imports from countries which do not have to meet New Zealand's high animal welfare standards."

Stats NZ consumer prices manager Sarah Johnson said meat, poultry, and fish prices had increased 6.0 per cent during the year.

Mad Butcher Dunedin manager Steven Fleming. Photo / Peter McIntosh
Mad Butcher Dunedin manager Steven Fleming. Photo / Peter McIntosh

"Restaurant and ready-to-eat meals increased 3.4 per cent, while fruit and vegetable prices were up 2.7 per cent."

The weighted average price for bacon is now sitting at $13.08 per 700g, while beef mince is at $17.07/kg and lamb chops at $18.07/kg.

Poultry prices had remained flat, while fish and other seafood prices were up an average 4.1 per cent year on year.

Johnson said increases had been partly offset by decreasing prices for iceberg lettuce, down 34 per cent, onions, down 15 per cent and honey, down 21 per cent.

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This was not enough to counteract New Zealand's largest increase since September 2011, when prices increased an average of 4.7 per cent.

"That was influenced by a rise in GST during the period," Johnson said.

Dunedin Mad Butcher manager Steven Fleming said there were a number of different influences, including increased demand from the US and Australia, which had lost a lot of stock.

"Our customers are definitely on the hunt for specials. Our pork is supplied by a single distributor ... so buyers do get the advantage of our bulk buying."

General food prices for the month of January rose 2.1 per cent, driven by fresh produce increases, including a 68% increase in strawberry prices, a 22 per cent jump in apples and a 58 per cent jump in broccoli.

Johnson said January often reflected food price rises as items go off Christmas specials.