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Potato prices reach all-time high in April – Media release

20 May 2020

Rising prices for potatoes, soft drinks (large bottles), capsicums, and fresh eggs saw overall food prices up 1.0 percent in April 2020, Stats NZ said today.

Potato prices rose 18 percent in April to a weighted average price of $2.51 per kilo, an all-time peak.

Some media reports suggest the potato industry has seen a 30–50 percent increase in demand from supermarkets and a shortage of workers.

“Higher demand and a shortage of potato pickers, many of whom stayed home due to fear of the COVID-19 virus, could explain this large price increase,” consumer prices manager Bryan Downes said.

Prices for fresh eggs (caged and barn) rose almost 7 percent to a record weighted average price of $4.78 per dozen. A decade ago a single egg cost 28 cents, and in April this year it reached 40 cents an egg.

Free-range egg prices also rose, by 1.2 percent to a weighted average price of $5.16 per half-dozen.

“Fresh egg prices have been on a gradual rise for the last two years as more New Zealand farmers shift from caged eggs to barned and free-range eggs,” Mr Downes said.

Eggs are an important item on most consumers’ shopping list. Figures show that spending on eggs for all New Zealand households in the year ended June 2019 was over $4,072,000 a week, an average of $2.30 per household.

Detailed household expenditure, year ended June 2019 has more information on household spending.

Food prices up in year to April

Food prices increased 4.4 percent to the year ended April 2020, the largest annual movement in over eight years. This rise was influenced by higher prices for grocery food (up 4.2 percent), meat, poultry, and fish (up 6.2 percent), and non-alcoholic beverages (up 4.7 percent).

Key movers for grocery food include:

  • cheddar cheese, up 17 percent
  • white bread, up 24 percent
  • Camembert cheese, up 15 percent
  • sweets, up 12 percent
  • biscuits, cracker style, up 9 percent.

Potato prices increased 38 percent in the year, the largest contributor to the annual rise in food prices.

“Potato prices tend to only peak once in a year, around December or January, but this year we’ve seen a second growth in April,” Mr Downes said.

Prices also increased for soft drinks (large bottles), and beef porterhouse/sirloin steak. These were partly offset by lower prices for avocados, tomatoes, and lamb leg.

See Impacts of the COVID-19 lockdown on methodology for food price index April 2020 for information about changes to data collection and how missing items were substituted with other values.