The 1890s marked the beginning of a recovery for New Zealand and this was reflected in a general upturn in price levels. The expansion of frozen meat and butter, and cheese exports, mainly to the United Kingdom, gave underlying strength to this movement. It was also associated with an upturn in United Kingdom price levels.
From 1900 to the beginning of the 1914–18 War, prices remained fairly steady, but in 1914 a sharp upturn occurred which lasted through to 1920. With the retail price index averaging an 8 per cent per annum rise, these years rank as New Zealand's most serious period of inflation. The 1920s saw again a stable price level which lasted through to the fall associated with the great depression. Export prices began to rise in 1936 and this movement was paralleled by a rise in retail prices.
During the 1939–45 War and up to 1949, retail prices rose at an average rate of rather more than 3 per cent per annum. The absence of the sharp rise usually associated with wartime was due to the imposition of price control, supplemented by direct subsidies on many essentials. The early 1950s brought a sharp rise in export prices, mainly from the wool boom associated with the Korean War. From 1953 onwards the rise in prices continued at a lower rate (about 4 per cent), the average increase for the whole decade being nearly 5 per cent per annum.