Thu, Feb 10, 2022 6:00 AM

Tomatoes lead price hike in fruit and vegetables



Jenny Nicholson

When it comes to fruit and vegetables, New Zealanders want a bargain.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Nadine Tunley says if New Zealanders want ready access to locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables, they must be prepared to pay more for them.

“I know that the cost of just about everything is increasing it is a worrying situation for all industries and consumers,” Nadine says. “But let’s not have a double standard around healthy, fresh fruit and vegetables.”

She says growers shouldn’t have to shoulder the latest cost increases from higher wages, compliance and distribution costs.

Stats New Zealand figures out last week show one of the highest annual price increases in a decade.

The annual increase of 4.5 per cent between December 2020 and December 2021 was the highest since the 4.7 per cent increase in September 2011.

Tomatoes are partially responsible for the increase, almost doubling in price over the year.

A local fruit exporter says difficulties exporting tomatoes led to a glut in the New Zealand market last year. While resulting low prices may have seemed favourable to the public, they have contributed to less crops being planted. This in turn has led to a steep rise in the price of tomatoes from $3.33 in December 2020 to $6.61 in December 2021.

Farmshop 185 owner Gavin Williams says rare disease pressure in some North Island crops has also reduced availability of tomatoes. This has meant South Island crops have been sent north rather than the crops going north to south which is more usual.

“The good news is that although they are still in short supply, we will have some pick your own ones available after Waitangi Day for a good price.”

Gavin says with less avocados being exported this year, local supply is plentiful. Because avocados are a long-term crop, he doesn’t think reduced exports will mean a reduction in growers as seen with tomatoes.

Overall fruit and vegetables rose 2.6 per cent in December compared to the previous month. This was driven by higher prices for potatoes, onions and apples but offset by lower prices for nectarines, courgettes and cucumbers.

Gavin says it has been a good season with crops well established and the recent sunny days giving fruit flavour. Although melons were initially in short supply, this week has seen that supply come on resulting in good prices and flavour.

Connings produce manager James Watene-Davis says supply and quality of all stone fruit has been better than the last few years.

“Cherries, apricots, nectarines and peaches are all doing well.”

He says the price of cucumbers has been consistently low this year.

“There hasn’t been anything out of the ordinary,” James says. “We are seeing the usual sales trends.”

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