Farrar fluffs food figures

Written By: - Date published: 11:28 am, March 7th, 2011 - 50 comments
Categories: dpf, Economy, food, spin, wages - Tags:

I thought that with a devastating earthquake, a record oil/food price spike, an unemployment tsunami, and a double-dip recession that the Nats’ apologists might have realised it was time for honest discussion of the issues and solutions. Instead, they’re still trying to bury our heads in the sand.

National pollster David Farrar takes umbrage with a Herald on Sunday article on rising food prices. You’ll remember that National made a big song and dance about food prices before the last election during the last oil/food price spike, so it’s a sensitive matter to National that the same thing is happening under their watch.

First he tries to minimise the food price spike, which, remember, has driven world food prices to the highest level in history:

Food prices did increase a lot in January 2011 [but] prices have been fairly stable for 11 months and have only increased since Christmas.

From January 2010 to January 2011 (Feb food prices are due out Friday), the price for 1 kg of apples has gone up 3% only. For carrots it is 26%, mushrooms 4% and potatoes 35%.

There’s some nice statistical trickery here. Farrar could have compared prices now to, say, two years ago or six months ago, but comparing to last January just so happens to give the smallest increase. The truth is food prices have never been higher and the Food Price Index is now 10% here than when National was campaigning on lowering food prices back in 2008.

Then Farrar tries to say our incomes have gone up more than the rise.

After tax wages have increased for someone on the average wage either 12% or 16% (off memory. You buy food from your after tax income not your before tax gross wage)

In fact, the Nats’ claim is that the average after-tax wage has gone up 10% after-inflation since they came to power. In calculating those figures, they count Labour’s tax cuts and exclude their GST increase. More importantly, Farrar is wrong to use the average ordinary-time full-time wage as a measure of how much incomes have changed. That figure has actually risen rapidly as low-income workers have lost their jobs in the last three years. Families buy stuff with their incomes not the average fulltime wage, and Stats NZ says the median household income had fallen 5% after inflation from June 2008 to June 2010.

In other words, food prices are up 10% since National came to power and incomes are down 5%. No wonder we’re felling the pinch.

That’s before the tax changes but NZIER said in January that GST and price rises had already eaten up the tax cuts for 60% of families, and that will be even worse now.

But you don’t need these numbers to prove that food prices are rising faster than incomes. You know it is true every time you go shopping. 80% of people in the Herald’s online poll say their income is not keeping up with price increases.

I don’t understand why Farrar, and the Nat research unit who clearly supplied his numbers, think some cheap statistical tricks will make us blind to the realities we’re experiencing every time we go to the supermarket and the petrol station.

I’ve said before that I’m well-off, but I know I’m feeling the effects of these prices, and it’s much harder on other families I know who aren’t as privileged. Maybe Farrar and his mates in the rich elite are simply too rich to notice.

Or maybe they’re so desperate they’ll try to spin even when it just reduces their already shot credibility.

50 comments on “Farrar fluffs food figures”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    National will lie, cheat, misdirect and misrepresent anything and everything to get and maintain power over everyone else and the reason why they want power is so that they can reallocate our wealth to themselves and their rich mates/owners. They’re psychopathic after all.

  2. Sanctuary 2

    I hope National keeps sticking to this incredible line of wishful thinking and denial. Voters will make up their own mind about it’s veracity or otherwise.

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      There’s a finite amount of time that you can keep spinning stats against what people on the ground are actually seeing. The longer and stronger the spin, the quicker it’ll wear thin and the longer the drop to reality will be.

      It’s like all fraud-based bubbles really.

  3. M 3

    Though these prices are hurting many including me with any luck the focus with voters will become increasingly acute.

    Just how much more crap are people willing to swallow before they wake up to the fact that Smiley is really Hannibal Lecter.

    Could TS perhaps make a video montage of Key’s sarky comments re the poor and workers so the populace can see how they’re really viewed by Key.

  4. Deadly_NZ 4

    And there’s still Smiling Bill’s budget to look forward too as well, oh joy, what little delights will we find in that I wonder.

  5. aj 5

    The public need to be reminded how generous National’s tax cuts have been. To the top 5%. No problem with groceries if you are getting $50, $100, $150 more a week as a consequence.
    Big problem if you got $10 or less and a large number of people.

    anti-spam – plastic ! yes, thats what people will have to resort too.

    I wonder what happened to wages catching up with Australia.

    The tide’s out and the Nats spin going into last election has been totally exposed for all to see.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      I wonder what happened to wages catching up with Australia.

      JK was either joking, talking about Australian wages or never said it.

      • todd 5.1.1

        Shonkey will deny saying it, when the video is produced he will say he didn’t remember saying it, then they will say it’s Labours fault, then he will say it was handled sloppily, then everything will go quiet to let people forget about it.

        Perhaps the wages catching up with Australia thing is similar to the war on welfare thing, whereby we all took the statements at face value, which was obviously not what the Natz meant. Shonkey should have said “I’m going to get paid as much as Gillard.” He was obviously unaware that he already gets $44,500 more than her each year.

  6. kriswgtn 6

    They lied to get in and are lying about everything to stay in.
    I would say that by the Nov Elections come ,people will really be hurting more considering the price of electricity will be increasing by $200 a year

    and will vote accordingly

    One consolation though for me has been Electra Limited refund of $110 which arrived on Saturday.I can afford to buy some meat for the first time in months

    Now debate is over a couple of sausages or chops
    bam- there goes my refund

  7. KINTO 7

    No so much making a big deal over food prices, mainly just cheese prices.

  8. Lanthanide 8

    Surprised you didn’t directly comment on it, Marty.

    Farrar has cherry-picked his time interval as Jan 2010 to Jan 2011 for the food prices, yet the “after tax income” increase is comparing September 2008 (eg, taking credit for Labour’s Oct 08 cuts) to sometime late last year.

    If he actually compared after-tax income from Jan to 2010 to Jan 2011, and factored in GST, the picture would look a lot worse.

  9. Farrar and food – it’s like Billy Bunter and buns.

  10. todd 10

    200,000 more unemployed under National + Exorbitant food prices = pain.

    It’s an interesting thing that the media spin is so far out of whack to what everybody knows.

  11. Treetop 11

    I can remember inflation being nearly 20 % in the mid 1980s. The economy is now as bad as it was then.
    1) Can someone please explain what causes inflation?
    2) Were the government to stop borrowing off shore would inflation go up?
    3) If imports weren’t so cheap would this cause inflation?
    4) Is inflation tied to unemployment?


    • Janice 11.1

      Like you I can’t remember what causes inflation (too much money chasing too few goods, or vice versa), but I have two credit cards from different banks and they have both written to me recently wanting to put my credit limits up from $3,000 to $6,000. If I was stupid enough to go out and spend this extra $6,000 gift I think this would cause inflation as it just the banks printing money. How many other customers have they done this to? If it just went to 10,000 customers that would put $30 million into the economy – is this the NACT plan?

      • Treetop 11.1.1

        LOL, I can remember during the 1980s that if you had cash in the bank you got a lot of interest for your money.

    • KINTO 11.2

      Inflation can be caused by many things, essentially it is money loosing its value (ie, you dont get as much stuff for your $20 note). Low interest rates (easy credit) can be inflationary, because it is easy to borrow more money. Rising costs of production (like petrol and raw supplies such as wheat and corn) can also be inflationary, because again you end up being able to buy less bread with your $20 dollar note.

  12. Armchair Critic 12

    With the level of skill displayed on the food prices issue, perhaps Mr Farrar can use statistics to explain how building consents aren’t at near record lows.
    National – fucking up the country since, well, at least 1965.

    • bbfloyd 12.1

      try from when they first got power, way back in the forties A.C. the shit had started to hit the fan as early as 1950.

      • Armchair Critic 12.1.1

        Yeah, I debated whether to put 1949 (when they formed their first government) or 1965 (when the building consent data series starts), and decided 1965 was more generous to National.
        I figured whatever I chose there was room for criticism – if I’d selected 1949 I was expecting a comment that said “but the consent data only goes back to 1965…”

        • Bright Red

          Within two years of coming to power for the first time, National was instituting war-time emergency regulations after they turned a simple waterfront dispute over whether wharvies should get a 15% raise like every other worker or the 9% offered by the shippers into a near-revolution.

        • todd

          National, Fucking up New Zealand since I can remember.

      • Draco T Bastard 12.1.2

        You could go back further than that to the time when they were still individual parties. You know, the ones that drove us into the Great Depression.

        • Armchair Critic

          Or I could run with what todd said.
          Any thoughts on the building consent data?

          • Rob

            Actually Arm Chair if you do the full year on year comparison for Jan Y/E 2011 vs Jan Y/E 2010 , the Jan 2011 year end is actually up on the year before in both residential consent value (about $300 mil) and consent numbers. The issue is the poor Jan result vs Jan the year previous that was commented upon.

            • Armchair Critic

              Yeah, it’s not the worst result ever, it’s only very bad. Let’s all celebrate.

              • Rob

                No one is celebrating, especially not us in the industry who are nervously looking even more restructuring, however you are not understanding the point. It is a poor result for Jan versus Jan the year previous year, and it is actually not uncomon to get a rogue 1 month result. I would say that the next Jan will look fantastic next year against this low result. But that is what happens when you choose to focus upon one point of data.

                If you are measuring and understanding the overall trends you would see that the last 12 months construction activity has actually been greater than the 12 months previously.

                • Armchair Critic

                  No one is celebrating…
                  Sorry Rob, that was a glib response on my part. I appreciate that you have engaged on the topic, rather than pick at comments about when the National party was formed.
                  …you are not understanding the point.
                  I understand the statistics fine, thanks. They show that any recovery is frail, at best.

  13. Blondie 13

    From the look of the man, Farrar has never found food to be at all unaffordable.

    And why would he be concerned if anyone else has? After all, selfishness is a virtue. Apparently.

  14. Farrar also neglects the fact that more than 60% of working New Zealander’s receive less than the average net wage. Of course the average wage will be boosted by the obscene tax cuts lavished upon the already wealthy, even if there has been a drop in real purchasing power for at least 60% of all employees.

    • Uncle Helen 14.1

      The top 10% of taxpayers pay an exorbitant 76% of total income tax, an obscene over-taxation of a staggering 66%.

      Pay your fair share, parasite.


      How often are you going to repeat the same lie over and over here UH? It does get tiresome. — r0b

  15. Bill 15

    Unemployed. No tax cut. Got a reduction in the level of my core benefit because of the tax cuts. Then got my reduced core benefit adjusted so that my benefit stayed in line with inflation from the previous 12 months (just over 2%). And in case anybody mistakes that I’m having a go at the National government, I’m not. Labour’s policy around benefit levels and tax cuts is exactly the same.

    Which means that even with figures skewed to show lower increases, those of us on a benefit who spend a far larger proportion of our income on food than others might, are genuinely struggling. It’s not a case of foregoing that luxury item in the weekly shop. There are no luxury items. None.

    It’s a case of no longer being able to afford basic and unexciting weekly groceries.

    • Treetop 15.1

      How are your culinary skills? I have been looking in second hand shops for cheap ingredient cooking recipes. Google is also good for this. I to need a treat/luxury and unless I make my own I would not have one.

      • Jim MacDonald 15.1.1

        Buy cheap Pam’s lentils (Indian = dal), soak them overnight (or longer in the fridge), boil them (with turmeric and ginger to reduce flatulence) and add to onions/garlic that you sautee, together with cheap curry powder/spices (mustard seeds, cumin, coriander, turmeric, etc). Can google for such recipes. Serve with potatoes, rice or bread. You have your protein, carbs and fibre there. Easy also in the toilet in the morning.

        I was a relatively well-off tourist in India a few years ago, sitting in the bus and looking out of the window at what the truck and bus drivers were making for themselves for lunch during a stopover in the middle of somewhere/nowhere. They were strong enough or actually stronger than the tourists when climbing up steep hills.

        To think I am now resorting to such a diet. Where’s the fish, rack of lamb, and steak, I ask myself these days.

        • Bill

          Jim and Treetop.

          I’m (allegedly) not a bad cook. (Depends who you talk to!) And I live (mostly) on what might be termed an Indian inspired vegetarian diet. And that’s tending more towards a vegan diet as dairy gets ever more beyond my means. Butter is my one remaining dairy constant. Small cuts of better quality cheese are occaisonal ( I punt for smaller amounts of quality, cost equivalent to quantities of relative shit). And milk is ‘gone burger’.

          So the basis of my diet revolves around relatively cheap ingredients. I never buy pre-prepared or packet food. No biscuits, frozen foods or tinned food other than tomatoes.And I grow veggies. And I often bake my own bread.

          And yet….often reduced to two meals a day and can’t afford the fucking shopping!

          • Treetop

            I hope you like pumpkin as the cheapest pumpkin soup recipe can be foung here under budget meals. I found a 4 kg pumpkin at Pak ‘ n Save for 98 cents (available all week). If you have some parsley in the garden use as a garnish, also kumara can be added to the soup. Bag up and freeze for another day.

            • Treetop

              Only use 2 cups of water in the pumpkin soup recipe instead of 4 cups as was too watery.

              Yes I know this has little to do with politics.

        • Vicky32

          Actually sounds delicious, thanks Jim!
          Chickpeas in broth, a great Italian recipe that I can’t translate sorry – my friend in Italy who is diet obsessed sent it to me…it’s a specialty of his region, he says.

          • Jim MacDonald

            Chickpeas work as well as lentils. Probably more ‘filling’, ie can get your teeth into.

            Chickpeas in broth? How about amuri e brodu di ciciri ?

            Literally: love and chickpea broth

            amuri = love
            brodu = broth
            ciciri – chickpeas

            Hope your finances will improve, Bill.

            • Bill

              It’s not ‘my’ finances that need to improve Jim. It’s the levels of benefit that thousands of people in NZ are trying to get by on that need to increase.

            • Vicky32

              Ceci con broda, is the regional version Gianluca likes…

    • Vicky32 15.2

      Exactly… Good thing I am pretty much anorexic, hey?

  16. BLiP 16

    Farrar can flounder away in his sewer as much as he likes. Meanwhile, down at Sylvia Park Pak’N’Save cabbages are $4 each, a loaf of bread is $5, and milk is more expensive than petrol. And the prices are still going up.

  17. Jones 17

    I agree that Farrar has badly fudged the statistics. I find his constant use of after tax income really irritating. However, I feel that there is a legitimate point about the New Zealand Herald using dubious statistics that they’ve collected when they could easily use the much more robust CPI data. It takes away from their credibility if they’re not going to use the most reliable source of statistics. It makes you wonder if journalists know how to analyse these things.

  18. Maggie 18

    Not only are wages higher in Australia but many food items are far cheaper than in NZ.

    Coles supermarket chain has milk permanently priced at $A1 per litre and you can get a loaf of bread for 99c if you shop around.

    The Queensland floods have hit some fruit prices, though, I saw bananas selling for $A8.99 a kilo yesterday!

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