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Food Prices Rise In January, Led By Vegetable Oils: FAO

World food prices rebounded in January and remained near ten-year highs, led by a jump in the vegetable oil index, the UN food agency announced on Thursday.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Food Price Index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 135.7 points last month, against an upwardly revised 134.1 in December. That figure was previously given as 133.7.

Higher Food Prices 

Higher food prices have contributed to a broader surge in inflation, as economies recover from the coronavirus crisis, and the FAO has warned that the higher costs are putting poorer populations at risk in countries reliant on imports.

The Rome-based FAO also raised its projection of global cereal production in 2021 to 2.793 billion tonnes, from a previous estimate of 2.791 billion tonnes, according to its cereal supply and demand outlook.

The FAO noted that its vegetable oil index rose by 4.2% month on month in January, to reach record levels, shunted higher by reduced export availabilities and other supply-side constraints, especially labour shortages and unfavourable weather.

“There is a concern [that] the impacts of these constraints will not ease quickly,” Boubaker Ben Belhassen, the head of the FAO’s Markets and Trade Division, said in a statement.

Dairy Price Index

The FAO dairy price index increased by 2.4% – its fifth consecutive monthly rise – with the steepest gains registered by skim milk powder and butter.

The cereal price index rose just 0.1%, with maize posting a 3.8% gain on the month, spurred by worries about persistent drought conditions in South America, the FAO noted.

By contrast, world wheat prices fell by 3.1%, on the back of large harvests in Australia and Argentina.

Meat prices edged up in January, while sugar was the sole index to post a decrease, shedding 3.1% from the previous month, due partly to favourable production prospects in major exporters like India and Thailand, the FAO noted.

Global Cereal Production

The FAO noted that it raised its projection of global cereal production in 2021 because of larger-than-estimated wheat outputs in Argentina and Australia, along with slightly higher production estimates in Russia and Ukraine.

‘For 2022, global wheat plantings are expected to expand, buoyed by mostly conducive weather conditions in the Northern Hemisphere, although high input costs could deter a larger expansion,’ the FAO noted.

World cereal utilisation in 2021/22 was forecast to rise by 1.6% above the 2020/21 level, hitting 2.805 billion tonnes.

The FAO’s forecast for world cereal stocks by the close of seasons in 2022 stood at 824 million tonnes, up by 2.2 million tonnes since November, and only slightly lower than their opening levels.

News by Reuters, edited by Checkout. For more fresh-food stories, click here. Click subscribe to sign up for the Checkout print edition.

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