The release today of the monthly Food Price Index showing a 16 percent increase in the cost of fruit and vegetables around Aotearoa compared with January 2022 is unsurprising for the horticulture industry.
United Fresh President, Jerry Prendergast, says the raft of challenges facing the country’s growers mean consumers should be prepared for continued disruption to fresh produce pricing and availability.
“Cyclone conditions in the North Island are delivering more rain to growers already struggling with washed-out crops. Some of our Pukekohe growers were reporting losses of up to 30 percent from January’s adverse weather. Every flood event can equate to weeks of lost production as well as disruption to key logistics such as transport and seasonal work like kiwifruit thinning,” says Prendergast.
“Costs are at an all-time high for the whole industry as we face increases in the price of fuel, fertilizer, and labor. The wet weather systems have put more pressure on a supply chain that was already struggling,” he says.
Despite this challenging environment, Prendergast notes that shoppers can still expect plenty of fresh produce in stores throughout the country.
“Kiwi growers and suppliers are notoriously resilient. There’s staff working up and down the country right now to get these essential foods to supermarkets and retailers.
“What we need is for consumers to be flexible with their meal planning, look for affordable seasonal offerings, and be prepared to try different varieties of produce if their family favorite is low in supply. Fresh fruit and vegetables in the season still offer good value when compared to many other popular supermarket choices,” says Prendergast.
“As an example, February and March are a great times to try some of the summer fruit coming from Central Otago. Our South Island growers have had exceptional weather this year and the fruit has arrived in time to replace melon crops that will be affected by the rain,” he says.