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'Incredible' growing conditions means cheaper fruit and veges

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 May 2024, 4:14pm
Consumers aren't buying more fruit and vegetables despite lower prices, the United Fresh NZ president says. Photo / Paul Taylor
Consumers aren't buying more fruit and vegetables despite lower prices, the United Fresh NZ president says. Photo / Paul Taylor

'Incredible' growing conditions means cheaper fruit and veges

Author
RNZ,
Publish Date
Wed, 8 May 2024, 4:14pm

RNZ

Idyllic growing conditions have led to fresh fruit and vegetable prices dropping 25 per cent compared to this time last year - and they are now at prices not seen for several years.

United Fresh New Zealand president Jerry Prendergast said for the past 10 months, apart from a late summer drought in Horowhenua, growing conditions around the country have been “incredible”.

Rain and warm sunshine have arrived on cue.

“We’re seeing again the ability to plant vegetables, and to harvest vegetables in conditions that have been superb,” he said.

Yields have been massive and the normal losses in a system where plants may die off had just not happened.

Fruit and vege prices fall 9 per cent in last year as food price inflation continues to ease
The result was a massive over-supply and lower prices.

“I can assure you, if you’re a consumer, it’s a consumer’s market, in terms of the value,” Prendergast said.

“I’ve not seen the value of fruit and vegetables - in particular, the green leaf vegetables and root vegetables - I’ve never seen the value at the levels that we are seeing now, since pre-Covid - perhaps 5 years plus.

“We are seeing values that are 20 to 25 per cent less than this time last year.”

But he said unfortunately for the growers, all this extra produce did not mean they were making more money.

“I wish I could say they did, but they’re growing at below the cost of production.

“If you’re harvesting cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, silverbeet, spinach, spring onions, lettuce, when you’re producing and harvesting them like you are at the moment, for the value returns, it’s actually below the cost of production.

“If you had a reasonable price point it would start to kick in for you. But right now it’s very tough for growers.”

He said growers have the choice to not plant, but that was not a good option.

“The reality is you might also see some increase in prices so you can’t afford to take the gamble to say ‘I’m not going to plant’ and hope that your business is going to survive.

“You need to have a programme of planting, you’ve got customers with expectations.”

Growers had to swing with the flow of supply and demand, but Prendergast said what was needed was more people eating vegetables because, despite the lower prices, consumers were not buying more.

There has never been a better time, he said, to swap some of the protein on the dinner plate for more vegetables.

- RNZ

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here.

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