Global food commodity prices rose for the 10th conservative month in March, led by vegetable oils and dairy products, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has said.

The FAO said this in its Food Price Index report released on Thursday. The index tracks International prices of most commonly traded food commodities.

The FAO food price index averaged 118.5 points in March, 2.1 per cent higher than in February and reaching its highest level since June 2014.

It said the March increase was led by the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index which rose 8.0 per cent from the previous month and making its highest level since June 2011.

“The persistent strength of the index was driven by higher values of palm, soy, rape and sunflower oils.

“International palm oil prices registered a tenth conservative monthly increase as lingering concerns over tight inventory levels in major exporting countries coincided with a gradual recovery in global import demand.

“Meanwhile, soy oil prices rose sharply, largely underpinned by prospects of firm demand especially from the biodiesel sector,” it said.

The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 117.4 points in March, rising for the 10th conservative month and lifting the index to nearly 16 per cent above its value in the corresponding month last year.

“In March International butter prices rose mainly underpinned by somewhat tight supplies in Europe due to a slow start to its milk production season and increased internal demand in anticipation of a foodservice sector recovery.

“Milk powder prices also rose, supported by a surge in imports in Asia, particularly China due to declining production in Oceania and scarce shipping container availability in Europe and North America,” the report said.

According to the report, the FAO Cereal Index averaged 123.6 points in March, down 1.7 per cent from February, ending the eight-month rising trend but still 26.5 per cent above its March 2020 level.

“Among major cereals, wheat export prices declined the most in March falling 2.4 per cent.

“However, they remained 19.5 per cent higher than in the same month last year.

“The month to month decline in wheat prices mostly reflected generally good supplies and favourable production prospects for the 2021 crops.

“International maize and barley prices also fell in March although continued strong import demand from China prevented them from falling more significantly, and sorghum prices even rose,” it said.

In the report, the FAO Meat Price Index averaged 98.9 points in March up 2.3 per cent from February.

“Poultry and pig meat quotations increased, underpinned by a fast pace of imports by Asian countries, mainly China.

“A surge in internal sales in Europe in preparation for the Easter celebrations also supported pig meat prices.

“Bovine meat prices remained steady at close to the February levels.

“By contrast, ovine meat prices fell on increased supplies from New Zealand as farmers offloaded animals early due to prevailing dry weather,” the report said.

Sugar Too

The report said the FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 96.2 points in March, down 4.0 per cent from February, marking the first decline after sharp increases registered in the previous two months.

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“The recent monthly decline in international sugar price quotations was triggered by prospects of large exports from India despite persisting logistical constraints.

“Sugar quotations remained more than 30 per cent above its year-earlier level, underpinned by concerns over tight global supplies in 2020/21,” it said.

Forecast

Meanwhile, FAO said it expects world cereal production in 2021 to increase for the third consecutive year.

It said for the current 2020/21 marketing season, global cereal utilisation is now forecast at 2777 million tonnes, 2.4 per cent higher than the previous year, driven largely by higher estimates of feed use of wheat and barley in China where the livestock sector is recovering from Africa swine fever.

It said world cereal stocks at the end of 2021 are forecast to decline by 1.7 per cent from their opening levels to 808 million tonnes.

“Combined with the utilisation forecasts, the global cereal stock to use ratio for 2020/21 is foreseen to dip to a seven-year low of 28.4 per cent.

“Global wheat production is forecast to reach a new high of 785 million tonnes in 2021, up 1.4 per cent from 2020, driven by a likely sharp rebound across most of Europe and expectations of a record harvest in India,” it said.

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