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Food costs rise in August, led by fruit and vegetables

BUSINESSDESK: New Zealand food prices rose in August, led by an increase in fruit and vegetables and non-alcoholic beverages.

The food price index rose 0.1% in August, for the fourth straight monthly gain, Statistics New Zealand says. Prices are down 0.5% from the same month last year.

Fruit and vegetables rose 1.5%, leading last month's increase, with tomatoes soaring 31%. Non-alcoholic beverages climbed 1.3%, reflecting higher prices for fruit juices and soft drinks.

Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices fell 0.1% and grocery food prices shed 0.7%, the fifth fall in six months. Meat, poultry and fish prices showed no change.

August's annual decline reflects "cheaper vegetables, dairy products and lamb", prices manager Chris Pike says. Annual food prices have fallen for four months in a row, which has not happened since 2010.

On an annual basis grocery prices have fallen 2.1%, while meat, poultry and fish are down 0.7%, led by a 19% decline in lamb prices from their peak in August 2011.

Restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food are up 1.3%.