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Minimum wage hike lifts fast food prices

New Zealand food prices rose in June, led by higher costs for takeover foods and restaurant meals following an increase in the minimum wage.

Statistics New Zealand said food prices rose 0.2 percent in June from a year earlier. Prices for restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food increased three percent, led by lunch meals, up 3.8 percent, along with a wide range of takeaway food options, the statistics agency said.

“April’s 75 cent increase in the minimum wage, to $16.50 an hour, may have contributed to price increases for these items,” Stats NZ prices manager Matthew Haigh said. “Of every $100 that Kiwi households spend on food, about $26 goes on takeaways and eating out.”

Bucking the trend, meat and poultry prices slipped 1.6 percent, influenced by cheaper prices for chicken which were down 8.5 percent. Chicken breast prices fell 14 percent to $12.28 a kilo, the statistics agency said.

Food prices increased 0.5 percent in June from May, influenced by seasonally higher vegetable prices, which advanced 11 percent. The rise was led by cucumber up 88 percent, lettuce up 48 percent, and capsicum up 32 percent, Stats NZ said.

Meanwhile, grocery prices fell 0.8 percent in June, with lower prices for dairy products, including yoghurt which was down 9 percent; cheese, down 4.2 percent; and butter, down 6.9 percent. The average price for a six-pack of 150-gram yoghurt was $4.40 in June, down from $4.83 in May, Stats NZ said.

The food price index accounts for about 19 percent of the consumers price index, which is the Reserve Bank's mandated inflation target when setting interest rates.

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