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February food prices up 1.7% on year

Food prices rose 1.7 percent on the year in February, driven by a lift in meat, poultry, and fish prices and restaurant and ready-to-eat food.

Meat, poultry and fish prices rose 3.5 percent on the year while restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food prices lifted 2.9 percent, Stats NZ said. Fruit and vegetable prices were down 0.6 percent on the year while grocery food prices lifted 0.8 percent and non-alcoholic beverages were up 2.7 percent. 

The 1.7 percent annual rise was the largest since last April when food prices lifted 2.3 percent on the year. They were up 0.8 percent on the year in January. 

Food prices were up 0.4 percent from January, but after seasonal adjustment rose 0.7 percent. The monthly rise was largely due to a 4.1 percent lift in soft drinks, water, and juices.

Soft drink prices rose 8.4 percent, reaching $2.70 per 1.5 litre bottle, Stats NZ said. 

The lift was partly offset by a 10 percent drop in butter prices to a 19-month low. 

“In January we saw milk prices fall to a 19-month low. This price fall now looks to be flowing on to other dairy products,” consumer prices manager Gael Price said. February prices fell 4.1 percent for cheese, 6.7 percent for yoghurt and 0.2 percent for milk. 

Global dairy trade auction prices fell between June and November 2018. These were reflected in lower dairy export prices in the December 2018 quarter. Prices, however, have since picked up. 

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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