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Tomato shortage follows lockdown – Media release

11 September 2020

Tomato prices rose 38 percent in August 2020 to a weighted average price of $13.65 per kilo, an all-time high, Stats NZ said today.

A shortage of tomatoes due to COVID-19 uncertainty caused higher than normal prices.

“About 40–50 percent of tomatoes are sold to independent grocers, cafes, and restaurants, which were unable to open during COVID alert levels 3 and 4 in April,” consumer prices manager Nicola Growden said.

“Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, many growers delayed or reduced replanting tomato crops at this time.

“We are now experiencing this supply shortage, which is the main reason for this price rise.

“Tomato prices follow a very seasonal pattern peaking in August.

“This peak has been generally trending downwards, but this year tomato prices have climbed to a new high.”

A significant rise in prices for both the emissions trading scheme and natural gases added extra pressure on winter tomato growers as costs for heating glasshouses increased.

Fruit and vegetable prices rose 3.1 percent in August 2020, largely influenced by higher tomato prices. Excluding the effects of tomatoes, fruit and vegetable prices would be down about 0.8 percent.

Overall food prices rose 0.7 percent in August 2020.

Healthy eating more expensive

Food prices increased 4.2 percent in the year ended August 2020, with fruit and vegetable prices increasing 19 percent.

The main contributors to higher fruit and vegetable prices included prices for:

  • tomatoes increased 37 percent
  • potatoes increased 37 percent
  • courgettes increased 183 percent
  • lettuce increased 24 percent
  • cucumber increased 39 percent.

“Buying in-season crops or frozen vegetables is typically a more affordable way to get the recommended 5+ a day,” Mrs Growden said.

“However, the only fresh fruit and vegetable prices that decreased in the year were nectarines, onions, pineapples, and olives.”

Higher fruit and vegetable prices were partly offset by lower prices for chicken pieces (down 8.7 percent), instant coffee (down 8.6 percent), and honey (down 23 percent).