Global food prices remain high despite marginal decline – UN index

UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan

3 May 2012 – Global food prices fell by 1.4 per cent between March and April, but seem to have stabilized at a relatively high level, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in its monthly food price index released today.

The three-point price decline was the first after three consecutive months of increases, and although the index is significantly down from its record level of 235 points in April last year, it is still well above the under 200 figure that preceded the 2008 food crisis.

According to the index, published in the latest FAO Food Outlook, a global market analysis, projections for the second half of this year and into early next year indicate generally improved supplies and continuing strong demand. Consequently, the global food import bill in 2012 could decline to $1.24 trillion, down slightly from last year’s record of $1.29 trillion.

The forecast for cereals production indicates a modest expansion this year to a new record of 2,371 million tons, compared to 2,344 million tonnes in 2011.

However, within the cereals sector, wheat production this year is projected to fall by 3.6 per cent – compared to 2011 – to 675 million tonnes, with the largest declines forecast for Ukraine, followed by Kazakhstan, China, Morocco and the European Union. The expected decrease coincides with prospects of a slight reduction in total wheat utilization in the 2012-13 marketing season.

The lower wheat output is offset by a record coarse grains production of 1,207 million tons anticipated in 2012, compared to 1,164 million tonnes in 2011.

Rice production is expected to grow by 1.7 per cent in 2012 to 488 million tonnes, but slackening import demand and the return of India as a major exporter are keeping prices down. World rice production this year is expected to exceed demand for the eighth consecutive year.

The market for oilseeds and derived products is expected to tighten again after two seasons of relatively ample supplies.

Global sugar output in 2011-12 is set to increase by close to 8 million tonnes, or 4.6 per cent over 2010-11, reaching nearly 173 million tonnes. According to FAO, increased sugar production is attributable to significant expansion in area and input use, prompted by strong international sugar prices and better weather in major producing countries, including Thailand and India.

Driven exclusively by gains in poultry and pork production, global meat output is set to expand by nearly 2 per cent to 302 million tonnes this year, according to the FAO Food Outlook.

World milk production in 2012 is forecast to grow by 2.7 per cent to 750 million tonnes, while sustained demand for fish and fishery products is boosting aquaculture production worldwide and pushing prices higher, despite some consumer resistance in the more traditional markets in southern Europe.

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