World food prices rose in March from the month before, driven by increases in grains and dairy costs, the United Nations food agency said. From a year earlier, food prices on international markets rose 0.7 percent in March.
The Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 172.8 points last month, up 1.1 percent from February. From a year earlier, food prices on international markets rose 0.7 percent in March, FAO said. As in February, the month-on-month increase in March was driven primarily by stronger international prices of cereals and dairy; whereas the prices of sugar and vegetable oils fell further and those of meat rose slightly. "Declines in price quotations for sugar and most vegetable oils were more than offset by increases for maize, wheat and most dairy products," FAO said in a statement.
The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 165.6 points in March, 2.7 percent (4.3 points) higher than in February and as much as 12.1 percent above its value in March 2017. The Index has been climbing continuously in recent months, reflecting firmer international prices of nearly all major cereals. In recent weeks, weather concerns, in particular prolonged dryness in the United States and cold wet conditions in parts of Europe, lifted wheat price quotations. However, the increase in maize prices proved even more pronounced, supported by deteriorating crop prospects, especially in Argentina, as well as continued robust world demand. Asian purchases kept international rice prices also generally firm. FAO said global cereals output in 2017 was 2.646 billion tons, up 33 million tons from 2016, but it expected maize and wheat production to decline in 2018 based on early forecasts. The agency predicted wheat output of 750 million tons for 2018, about 1 percent lower than the near-record 2017 level.