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Fruit and vegetable prices expected to soar further at supermarkets

Statistics New Zealand senior manager Aaron Beck does not paint a rosy picture of how much more shoppers are being stung at the checkout for fruit and vegetables.

"Fruit and vegetables increased most over the year, they increased by 18 percent, tomatoes too, all by more than 50 percent over the year," he said.

United Fresh president Jerry Prendergast said that was because inflation is crippling the industry.

"Excessive costs, not only your normal fertilisers which is a direct reflection of what's happening in Ukraine, or the increased costs of wages, fuel rates, and insurances."

Prendergast said that meant growers were weighing up whether they could actually afford to sell their produce.

"Do I harvest my crop, is it more valuable to me to simply place the rotary hoe through that crop and walk away from it, we're at a point now where for many growers they're having to make a decision."

At United Fresh's Mount Wellington warehouse the floor is full of almost every fruit or vegetable.

Crates are piled high with boxes of tomatoes, bags of spinach, and bunches of bananas.

Prendergast said this would all cost more if growers decide it was not feasible to stock shelves.

"We won't see those low prices of the 2000s that we've been constantly able to see on the shelves in the last three or four or five years. We'll see a new phase in the cost of fruit and vegetables and that will be higher."

He said inflation needed to be considered when bargaining between growers and retailers for the right price.

Vegetables New Zealand chair John Murphy agreed all growers were facing high prices of fuel, fertiliser, and staff costs.

“Unfortunately, we can't simply pass those costs along. While they've affected our bottom line and it's been a very tough year for us, our prices are set by availability in the market.”

He told Checkpoint that sometimes retail prices at the supermarket were cheaper than the cost price of the produce, like lettuce for instance.

"In some areas, we've got reports of crops being bypassed or chopped into the ground because the market price simply doesn't cover the cost of getting them to market.

"Being price takers, there's a real disconnect between the cost of growing fruit and vegetables and what's received in the market.”

Meanwhile, at the Wesley market in the Auckland suburb of Mount Wellington, the rain did nothing to deter a bustling crowd.

At Countdown, Telegraph cucumbers are selling for $2.99 each, and tomatoes are $5.99 a kg. But at the vegetable markets, the cucumbers are $5 a kg and tomatoes are $0.99 a kg

Shoppers said it was a no-brainer compared to the supermarket.

"Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. So much better here, for example, lemons I can get here for $5 a kg, bananas, everything pears $2.58 a kg here," said one woman.

"The cost of living is going up, some things have doubled in price so I can't keep up with it." said another shopper.



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