Māori feeling the burden of high food prices

By Tumamao Harawira

The rising cost of living has pushed some people to the brink of social disaster.

According to Stats NZ, the average price of a kilogram of tomatoes increased from $3.33 in December 2020 to $6.61 in December 2021, with overall food prices rising by 4 per cent.

Te Ata Chapman who started his Facebook group, Māra Kai Aotearoa, to help whānau return to self-sustaining food production, also wanted to find ways to lower food bills. Now his page found a niche with nearly 1,000 members who are feeling the impacts of the high cost of fruit and vegetables.

"Māra Kai Aotearoa is about encouraging low socio-economic whānau or even those who just want to learn to grow their own food."

"My main goal was the revitalisation of these skills. These traditions have long been dormant. Twenty years ago, whānau in every region were growing kai."

Affects whānau on good wages

According to Māori economist Mathew Roskruge, Aotearoa is seeing the impacts of high inflation.

"Once it gets above 3% your ability to increase your income isn't keeping up with the increase in the cost of living," he says.

"Those on fixed incomes like beneficiaries just aren't able to keep up but it's now also those on pretty good wage and salaries."

The way Stats NZ measures inflation on food is the Food Price Index.

The food price index (FPI) measures the changes in prices that households pay for food. It measures the price change by tracking the prices of individual food items that make up a representative food basket.

The FPI basket is organised into five subgroups:

  •  fruit and vegetables
  • meat, poultry, and fish
  • grocery food
  • non-alcoholic beverages
  • restaurant meals and ready-to-eat food. 

Food prices are also included in the consumer price index (CPI). The food group is the only group of the CPI for which Stats NZ prepares an index each month.

Inflation has hit its highest level in 30 years with an annual rate of 5.9 per cent. Roskruge says although the price of food is high, there are other areas that he is concerned about.

And it doesn't get any better, with economists predicting retail prices could rise by over seven per cent.

Roskruge says, "it's things like gasoline we should be really concerned about because there aren't many alternatives to petrol. whiteware and things like that, your rents. So lots of whānau really can't do much to avoid those costs."