A recurring theme for the balance of this (election) year will, I suspect, be food prices, particularly with the soaring price of petrol. Despite our deep grumbles about prices, we bow to the oil barons, and attempt to revert to some cost saving measures.
Our food producers are not afforded the same luxury. Our protests here have more vigour and sting. Take the ongoing issue of the price of milk. There is a target we can see and touch.
A staunch defender of the indigenous food industry, veteran agricultural reporter Jon Morgan wrote in the Dominion Post this week that when it comes to food pricing “some self-styled Kiwi mums, backed by the usual self-promoting suspects of the Green Party, talkback radio hosts and TV presenters have Fonterra in their sights”.
His column, headed: Not letting the facts get in the way of a good story, drew on the evidence of Massey University professor of pastoral farming Jacqueline Rowarth, the theme being food is cheap – when adjusted for inflation, that is.
Unfortunately food is not an intellectual exercise. Even if we accept the evidence of Professor Rowarth that all Kiwis over 18 years spend $5 a day on impulse buys versus $10 a day on supermarket shopping – and that wage increases have outstripped food price rises – the pain at checkout is undiminished.
While facts – and their constant repetition – may over time have some influence on how we view food prices, no amount of communication is going to change the fact that our spending priorities have been re-ordered. As important as food is, we now have infinitely more spending options than our parents, or even our older siblings, and we are determined to exercise them. This is our birthright, so we should not expect our attitudes to food prices to change anytime soon.