Price rises hit the sweet tooth in April, with chocolate and ice cream costs rising to record highs.

The average price for a 2-litre tub of ice cream reached a record $6.36 in April versus $5.54 a year earlier.

Overall, New Zealand food prices rose an annual 1 per cent in April as a lift in minimum wage kicked in while a new measure showed that rental price inflation was steady in April.

The 1 per cent annual rise in food prices followed a 1.2 per cent annual rise in March. Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food increased 3.2 per cent on the year in April and were up 0.9 per cent versus March.

Advertisement

Stats NZ said the rise coincided with a $1.20 an hour increase in the minimum wage from April 1.

"Prices for restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food usually increase steadily over time. However, April saw the biggest monthly rise since October 2010," said consumer prices manager Gael Price.

The grocery food subgroup was up 1.2 per cent on the year, pushed higher by the rising costs of eggs. The price of eggs reached a record high of $4.43 a dozen in April 2019, after rising for the past nine months, Stats NZ said.

A national egg shortage may be one of the reasons for the rise in retail egg prices. Industry reports suggest that farmers are switching away from caged hens to more expensive free-range egg production, meaning that egg supply is down as hen flock sizes are reduced.

Egg prices have also been pushed up by a national shortage. Photo/Getty Images.
Egg prices have also been pushed up by a national shortage. Photo/Getty Images.

The increases were partly offset by a 4.1 per cent fall in fruit and vegetables on the year.

Food prices fell 0.1 per cent in April from March. Vegetable prices fell 2.6 per cent and fruit prices fell 2.1 per cent, offsetting a 0.9 per cent lift in ready-to-eat food and a 0.6 per cent rise in milk, cheese, and eggs.

After seasonal adjustment, food prices also fell 0.1 per cent on the month.

The food price index accounts for about a fifth of the consumers price index, which the Reserve Bank uses to pursue its inflation target when setting interest rates. The central bank last week cut the official cash rate by 25 basis points to a record low 1.50 per cent as it looks to jump-start domestic economic growth and ensure inflation hits the midpoint of its 1 per cent to 3 per cent target range.

Advertisement

Inflation is currently an annual 1.5 per cent.

Separately, Stats NZ's new way of measuring rental price inflation was steady in April.

The new measure draws on Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment tenancy bond data, replacing a quarterly survey of landlords, and will also feed into the CPI.

The 'stock' measure shows rental price changes across the entire renting population, whereas the 'flow' measure only captures dwellings that have a new bond lodged against them.

The national stock rental price index rose 3.4 per cent in April from the same month a year earlier. In March it also rose 3.4 per cent on the year. It rose 0.3 per cent in April from March.

On the flow basis, rental prices rose 4.4 per cent on the year in April and 0.1 per cent on the month.

- BusinessDesk