One of the first things you notice about New Zealand, apart from the small population, absence of traffic jams and clarity of the sky (no pollution), is how much things cost: and they cost a lot.
The cheap food culture of the UK and indeed the EU, lulls you into a false sense of security in some ways, but New Zealand prices are a shock.
A small shop of 32 items came to $139.66. Take off $28 for two bottles of wine (at the cheap end of the spectrum I can assure you) and it is still over $110 (£59.45 at today’s exchange rate) for 30 items. Here are a few snapshots and remember that all the fruit and veg I bought was New Zealand grown and it is the height of the production season (drought permitting). Prices are in £ equivalents based on the current exchange rate of $1.85 to £1 (the NZ dollar is strong currently so exchange rates are poor).
- small Lettuce – £1.70
- Tomatoes 250g, – £2.00
- 200g hummus – £1.50
- milk, 1L – £1.60
- red pepper – £1 each
- ordinary tights, one pair – £3.90
- small loaf ciabatta bread – £2.30
- six bread roles – £1.70
- plain yoghurt, 1kg – £3.80
A very good and clearly well researched article in the excellent NZ magazine ‘North and South’ did not offer many conclusions. De-regulation, the absence of competition and the inability of consumers to complain is blamed for high costs of water, energy and broadband. Milk, butter, meat, veg and fruit are above world market prices as is wine in NZ.
The article also quoted one apple grower from Otago (South Island) who said apples were sold in the supermarket at 800% more than the price he received. A familiar tale from the UK / EU supermarket approach, and we all know the impact of unrealistically priced milk on UK dairy farmers. The article concluded that the prices are inflated at some point in the supply chain but no one is sure where. At least the UK now has the Groceries Code Adjudicator in place (ombudsman) to tackle abuses, even if she won’t be able to ensure a fair market price is paid.
Now I am not advocating for unrealistically low food prices but merely commenting that in some parts of the developed world feeding yourself and your family is hard, and getting harder, particularly for those on low, or fixed incomes. There is another lesson here too for those who think the UK will do much better out of the EU. One small independent country is much more likely to see prices rise than fall, as it tries to trade individually on the international market.
One of the few benefits of expensive food and goods – you don’t waste anything and you only buy it if you really need it… maybe there are some benefits after all.