NZ: Potato price swells Xmas roast cost

The traditional Christmas roast is set to be an expensive occasion this year, thanks to high meat prices and a poor growing season.

While food prices overall have been relatively steady, up less than 1 per cent in the year to October according to Statistics New Zealand, certain traditional Christmas staples have increased in cost compared to last year.

Although it is not quite a potato famine, the price of potatoes is also up compared to last year, with demand exceeding supply by 20 per cent according to Potatoes NZ chief executive Champak Mehta. He said the drop in supply was due to bad weather impacting yields in the early part of the season from September onwards. The weather had also slowed the harvest.

To make matters worse, even cherries are likely to be more costly than they were last year in the lead-up to Christmas. Ajay Jina, managing director of Jina's World of Fresh Produce in Lower Hutt, said the cherry crop had also been affected by the weather, which had pushed production back by about two weeks.

There is some good news for Christmas food fans. Jina said strawberry prices were steady with a plentiful supply. Jina said Christmas lunch and dinner this year did not have to be expensive and there were some fresh foods such as lettuces and tomatoes that were cheaper than they were last year.

A Countdown spokeswoman said strawberries were the most popular item at this time of year, which was the only time that they took top spot from bananas. "We're expecting to sell more than 2 million punnets this month alone. Other highly popular items include traditional pavlovas, fruit cakes, Christmas mince pies and trifle sponges."

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