Food prices fall for first time in three months – UN agency

Workers in a food processing plant. Photo: FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

6 February 2014 – Global food prices declined for the first time in three months as lower prices for cereals, sugars, oils and meat outstripped gains in dairy values, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today.

The Rome-based agency said its Food Price Index averaged 203.4 points in January, which is 1.3 per cent below December and 4.4 per cent below January 2013.

The Index measures monthly changes in international prices of a basket of meat, dairy, cereals, oils and fats, and sugar.

“We're seeing lower prices due to abundant supplies, but stronger upturn in demand, such as an increase in the pace of imports from Asia, could limit the decline,” said FAO economist Abdolreza Abbassian.

Sugar and vegetable oils fell 5.6 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively. Bumper cereal crops, meanwhile, helped to bring down cereal prices, which were 1.6 per cent lower than in December and as much as 23 per cent lower than in January 2013.

Even meat prices, which had strengthened over the past few months, fell slightly in January.

“The only notable exception was a rise in dairy prices,” said Michael Griffin, FAO's dairy and livestock market expert.

The FAO dairy price index registered a 1.3 per cent increase in January to 267.7 points, largely reflecting strong demand, especially from China, North Africa, the Middle East and Russia.

Overall world cereal production for 2013 was stronger than anticipated, to a record 2,502 million tonnes, up 8.5 per cent from 2012.

“The bumper cereal crop in 2013 would help in replenishing world reserves,” FAO said in its news release.

The UN agency estimates the harvest could reach 573 million tonnes, 13.5 per cent higher than in the previous season. At this level, the stocks-to-use ratio for global cereals would top 23.5 per cent in 2013/14, its highest value since 2002/03 and well above its historical low of 18.4 per cent registered in 2007/08.

Based on the latest information, early prospects for the 2014 harvest looks good, FAO predicted. This view is shared by a separate report published today by the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) a G20 initiative which is housed at FAO and managed by ten international organizations.


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Global food prices steady in December, 2013 prices third highest on record – UN agency

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