Kiwis cheesed off at surging cauliflower costs

Wellington (AFP) –


The coronavirus pandemic has upended life for billions, but New Zealanders tolerating strict lockdown laws have drawn the line at surging cauliflower prices and are demanding the government act.

New Zealand authorities monitoring price gouging amid the global health crisis have been flooded with complaints about the cost of the humble vegetable.

Rather than profiteering from soaring demand for facemasks and cleaning products, or even alcohol and cigarettes, Kiwi retailers stand accused of dirty tactics in the veg aisle.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched a reporting service called Price Watch on Monday which she said received almost 1,000 emails in its first day of operation.

"The most common complaint was... the high price of cauliflower, with some emails quoting NZ$13 (US$7.70) each," she told reporters Wednesday.

"Prices of hand sanitiser, bread, meat, facemasks and garlic also featured.

"I want to say to people that we are taking these complaints seriously."

Statistics New Zealand's website has cauliflower pricing information going back more than a decade, showing the vegetable cost about NZ$4.00 at the end of last year.

North Island supermarket owner Sagar Patel last week revealed that officials had questioned him about the price of his cauliflowers, which are a seasonal item.

Patel denied any wrongdoing and said high-volume items such as bread would make more sense for profit gouging.

"Our sales for cauliflower represents less than 0.01 percent of our weekly turnover, why would we try to price gouge on an item that is so insignificant to our business?" he told the New Zealand Herald.