May 9, 2019 / 8:20 AM / a month ago

World food prices climb in April, cereal output seen rising: U.N. FAO

ROME (Reuters) - World food prices rose some 1.5 percent in April, with a jump in dairy and meat prices helping offset a fall in cereal quotations, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Steamed dishes are seen on a giant food steamer for an event at a tourist attraction in Xiantao, Hubei province, China April 26, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also issued its first forecast for global cereal production this year, seeing a record output for 2019 following a decline in 2018.

FAO’s food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 170.1 points last month against an upwardly revised 167.5 points in March.

The March figure was previously given as 167.0.

The index in April was at its highest level since last June, but still some 2.3 percent below its level of one year ago.

The FAO dairy price index jumped 5.2 percent from March’s value, its fourth successive monthly rise, driven by strong import demand for butter, whole milk powder and cheese.

The meat price index rose 3.0 percent month-on-month, pushed higher in part by a rise in pig meat quotations following a surge in import demand in Asia, notably China, where the rapid spread of African Swine Fever has impacted the local market.

The sugar and vegetable oil indices also rose, but the cereal index fell 2.8 percent last month — its fourth consecutive decline, with wheat leading the way down as prospects for a strong 2019 production hit prices.

FAO said the cereals index in general was pressured by “large export availabilities and slowing trade”.

In its first forecast for 2019, FAO predicted world cereal production would come in at a record 2.722 billion tonnes this year, up 2.7 percent on 2018 levels, when output declined.

“Among the major cereals, wheat, maize and barley would account for most of the rise in cereal production, with projected year-on-year increases of 5.0 percent, 2.3 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively,” FAO said.

Global rice production was seen largely stable.

FAO said global food consumption of cereals was set to rise by at least 1.1 percent this year, due to the growing world population, with world cereal utilization seen rising 1.5 percent in 2019/20.

This meant that world cereal stocks are likely to be drawn down by 0.7 percent to 847 million tonnes — the lowest volume since 2015/16.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer

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