Our food is cheap – but don’t expect us to accept it

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.


Categories: Food Industry, Food Trends

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1 reply »

  1. Along with increased spending options, people also seem to consider it their birthright to have the best quality of food regardless of their level of income.
    A humble entry level office worker doesn’t expect to afford the same car, or address or holiday destitination as their wealthier employer but they do seem to expect to eat the same food, including premium cuts of meat and whatever else they fancy from the well stocked shelves of the supermarkets. This is a wonderfully egalatarian ideal but is inordinately expensive. And their parents in all likelyhood, ate according to their income and understood without need for explanation that a leg of lamb was for special meals and steak a treat. Less expensive doesnt need to mean less tasty or nourishing, it means less expensive.
    We frequently hear people bemoaning the fact that they can no longer afford a leg of Lamb and yet in a recent converstation with a foodie in her 80′s I was told they never ate lamb when raising their family 60 years ago – why? too expensive, only rich folks at lamb, everyone else had mutton, bought cheap and cooked well.