Food price spikes: NZ joins world's poorest countries with highest food cost rises

29 Feb 2024 by World Vision
Food price spikes: NZ joins world's poorest countries with highest food cost rises

A new report from World Vision reveals the dramatically escalating cost of an average food basket over the past year in New Zealand and several other countries, including some of the world’s poorest nations.

The research examined food prices in 67 countries for ten common food items, including rice, bananas, chicken, tomatoes, eggs and oil, and compared these with prices a year ago.

The analysis reveals an overall global decline in food prices, but several countries, including New Zealand, buck this trend and record significant increases in food prices.

New Zealand experienced a 56% increase in the cost of a food basket*, with the price in 2023 coming in at NZ$78.32 compared with NZ$50.16 in 2022.

New Zealand joins some of the world’s poorest nations in experiencing such dramatic food price inflation, such as Sudan (a 61% increase), Ethiopia (a 43% increase), and Honduras (a 56% increase), while countries such as Australia experienced a 29% decrease in food prices.

World Vision’s Head of Advocacy and Justice, Rebekah Armstrong, says the report highlights the need for investment in strong and resilient food systems both here and overseas.

“New Zealand joins many of our counterparts around the world in paying more for food due to import costs, but also in the impact of climate change-related food price inflation.

“We’ve all been feeling the financial pain of buying food, but this report shows clearly how markedly the cost of basic staples has increased. We know that some of this is due to Cyclone Gabrielle and the impact it has had on the price of staples in New Zealand, such as fruit and vegetables, but there are bigger issues at play as well. Food prices in New Zealand are higher than the global average due to other established issues, such as the lack of competition in the supermarket sector.

“But long-term, New Zealand, like many sub-Saharan African countries, has to grapple with the impacts of the climate crisis on horticulture and agriculture. We, along with other nations, need to prioritise a comprehensive food strategy that addresses climate resiliency in food systems so that primary industries and small businesses can withstand climate-related events which will only increase in coming years,” she says.

While food price inflation in New Zealand was significant, the number of hours New Zealanders worked to pay for food was at the lower end of the scale.

An average New Zealander would work for three hours to pay for the food basket of common items. This is not the case for many poorer countries, such as the Central African Republic, where someone will work for just over 25 days to pay for the same basket of food items.

World Vision New Zealand National Director, Grant Bayldon, says nine out of ten countries experiencing the highest food prices compared to average work wages are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“The cost of food in poorer countries is beyond the reach of many and it means families are not able to eat every day – leaving children hungry, malnourished and stunted.

“The effects of hunger last a lifetime and can mean children do not grow and develop properly, miss out on school or forgo an education altogether to help their families earn enough to eat. It’s a bitter cycle that cripples the prospects of millions of children,” he says.

Bayldon says New Zealand has a role to play as a good global citizen to help address the protracted hunger crisis in Africa, but needs to do more.

He says last year World Vision partnered with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to deliver a programme in Kenya to help combat devastating hunger.

That programme saw the delivery of more than 2,000 tonnes of food which helped nearly 74,000 people living on the brink of famine.

Bayldon says more joint projects like this are needed to help facilitate an end to the hunger crisis and World Vision wants the Government to allocate at least $4 million from the Disaster Response Partnership for 2024 to address the food crisis in Africa and ensure that Overseas Development Aid is increased in this year’s budget.

He says this latest report highlights how alarming the global food crisis is that has left 35 million people worldwide facing emergency hunger conditions.

“The economic turmoil caused by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, alongside intensifying effects of climate change and other conflicts, are leaving the most vulnerable people least able to afford the cost of a basic food basket. Chicken, eggs and milk should not be considered luxuries, but something that everyone is able to buy to have a balanced diet.”

World Vision launched the “Enough” campaign in 27 countries in the African Union this year with the aim of ending hunger and malnutrition for every child. New Zealanders who want to help support those facing hunger on a daily basis can make a donation here.

You can read the full Price Shocks Report here.