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Food prices fall 0.9% in September, led by groceries, fruit, vegetables

BUSINESSDESK: New Zealand food prices fell in September, ending four months of gains, reflecting lower prices for groceries and fruit and vegetables.

The food prices index fell 0.9%, Statistics New Zealand says, from a gain of 0.1% in August. They are down 0.3% from the same time last year.

"Lower fruit and vegetable prices led the decline as prices unwound from the seasonal winter spike," ASB economist Jane Turner says. "The decline in fruit and vegetable prices was not as large as expected – easing grocery prices due to lower prices for dairy have been a key driver for subdued food price inflation."

She says she expects less downward pressure on food prices in the coming year.

"We expect export prices for meat and dairy to recover over the coming year and, over time, these may result in higher retail prices." 

Today's figures showed grocery prices fell 1.6%, fruit and vegetables eased 2.2% and non-alcoholic beverages decreased 0.5%.

The fall in fruit and vegetable was led by a 32% decrease in capsicum prices to $15.05 kilogram. Cucumber prices fell 33%and strawberries slid 20%.

Broccoli prices bucked the trend, rising 36% last month, caused by an early spring shortage, pumpkin rose 62% and tomatoes gained 69% to $12.26 a kilogram.

Meat, poultry and fish prices and restaurant meals and ready-to-go bucked the trend, rising 0.2%. The rise was led by a 6% increase in the price of porterhouse/sirloin beef steak and a 5% gain in chicken pieces.