FAO Food Price Index increased for the fourth consecutive month, with prices of most commonly-traded food commodities up.
World food prices rose for the fourth consecutive month in January. The FAO Food Price Index averaged 182.5 points during the month, up 0.7 percent from December and 11.3 percent higher than the same month a year earlier. Vegetable oils, sugar, and wheat were the chief drivers of the index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities.
The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index increased 7.0 percent for the month, hitting a three-year high as prices for palm, soy, sunflower and rapeseed oils all rose. Prices lost strength in the second half of January, however, reflecting uncertainties over trade, the potential impact of the recent coronavirus outbreak and trade tensions between India and Malaysia.
The FAO Sugar Price Index rose 5.5 percent, propelled by expectations of much lower sugar output in several major producing countries. The increase was mitigated by the continuous weakness of the Brazilian currency and the recent decline in crude oil prices, which affects demand for sugarcane to make ethanol. The FAO Cereal Price Index rose 2.9 percent from December, led by higher wheat prices, followed by maize and rice, largely on firmer demand and a faster pace in purchases by several countries.
RECORD CEREAL OUTPUT IN 2019
FAO also issued a new forecast for world cereal production in 2019, anticipating a record high of 2 715 million tonnes, a 2.3 percent increase from the previous year. The new Cereal Supply and Demand Brief noted "mixed" prospects for the upcoming 2019 coarse grain harvests in the Southern Hemisphere, which are about to start. Argentina's maize crop is set to benefit, buoyed by favourable rainfall, above-average sown area, high domestic prices and strong export prospects. The slow pace of the soybean harvest has led to delays in sowing maize in neighboring Brazil.
In the Northern Hemisphere, winter wheat plantings are expected down in Europe due to untimely heavy rains in France and the United Kingdom, while a contracting in winter cereals sowing is expected in Ukraine and the United States of America. By contrast, stronger outturns are expected in the Russian Federation, where official estimates show a record planted area for winter wheat, and in India and Pakistan.
World cereal stocks by the close of seasons in 2020 are expected to amount to 863.3 million tonnes, marginally lower than their opening levels. The resulting global cereal stock-to-use ratio is now projected at 30.9 percent, a comfortable level by historical standards.
World trade in cereals in 2019/20 is anticipated to rise 2.3 percent to 420.2 million tonnes, the second highest on record, led by increasing shipments of wheat from the European Union and Ukraine to Asia.