Fruit and vegetable prices jump 8.3% in past month alone and apples command premium.

Kiwis' consumption of health-giving fruit and vegetables, already on the light side, is thought likely to have dipped further during the past 12 months because of a 7 per cent price rise.

In the last month alone fruit and vegetable prices rose 8.3 per cent, driven by seasonal variations.

Apples commanded record prices due to a later-than-usual season and reduced volumes because of a cold, wet spring and summer hailstorms in all the main growing regions.

Spring weather hit potatoes too, lifting average monthly prices above $2 a kg in December and January and causing a temporary shortage of chips.


Kate Porter, spokeswoman for the Progressive Enterprises supermarket group which owns Countdown, said of the increase since January last year: "The main driver of fruit and vegetable prices is the seasons, supply and demand.

"I don't think it's any secret to anyone that we've had a very tricky spring because of the immense amounts of rain. It's put a lot of pressure on prices and a lot of pressure on shortages."

Antoinette Laird, a spokeswoman for the Foodstuffs group, which includes the Pak'nSave and New World supermarkets, questioned the validity of the Statistics New Zealand data and would not comment on it, but urged customers to buy fruit and vegetables in season for the best prices.

Food prices overall rose by 1.2 per cent in the 12 months to the end of January, Statistics NZ reported, but the headline figure masks some big swings.

The ups and downs of the food price index included rises for fruit and vegetables of 7 per cent; meat, poultry and fish, 2.8 per cent; non-alcoholic beverages, 1.1 per cent; restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food, 1.7 per cent; and a decrease of 1.7 per cent in grocery foods. Bread, which is part of the grocery foods group, experienced a marked reduction, of 12 per cent. Bread has been the object of such a fierce pricing war, with supermarkets charging just $1 for some white loaves, that a union fears bakers' jobs could be put at risk.

But there are health worries from the fruit and vegetable price rises.

"The standout concern is the 7 per cent increase for fruit and vegetables," said Otago University professor of public health Tony Blakely.

"From what we know, that would probably reduce consumption by about 6 per cent.


"[With] bread, as a staple, a reduction in price is good for affordability," said Professor Blakely.

"But I'm concerned if that decrease in price is largely because of the [price war] of cheap bread which is high in salt and low in grain and fibre."

Pukekohe Vegetable Growers Association president Bharat Jivan said the fact vegetable prices were higher last month than a year ago reflected the reality that prices had been too low for growers to accept and that had led to a reduction in supply.

Five-a-day dearer

Claudia Chanay (pictured) says she has noticed fruit and vegetables costing her more.

"I definitely buy less. I try to buy what's affordable for the week," said the mother of one, from Blockhouse Bay in Auckland.

"I shop week to week. I wouldn't be able to do it any other way, I wouldn't be able to afford it. It's usually what's on special," said Ms Chanay, who receives a state benefit.

"At the moment New Zealand blueberries are in season but I wouldn't be able to afford them after the season."

Claudia Chanay. Photo / Nick Reed
Claudia Chanay. Photo / Nick Reed

Recently she made a feta cheese, spinach, garlic and pasta dish and was surprised the spinach cost $10. Her recipe called for basil but she went without as it was too dear.

She and her 16-month-old daughter Maddy Reyna like to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables because they are healthy and easy and fast to prepare.

"We are a South American family [from Peru] and we eat a lot of rice and potatoes," said Ms Chanay, a New Zealand citizen, "so it's nice to have salads when we can."