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FAO Food Price Index declines in December

Annual 2017 Index up 8.2% from 2016.

The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index averaged 169.8 points in December 2017, down 5.8 points (3.3%) from November. The steepest declines were registered in the prices of dairy, vegetable oils and sugar; prices of cereals and meat also fell, but only slightly.

For the whole of 2017, however, the Food Price Index averaged 174.6 points, up 8.2% from 2016 and representing the highest annual average since 2014 ,although still 24% below the 2011 high of almost 230 points. While sugar values plummeted in 2017, dairy and meat prices registered sharp year-over-year increases, and cereals and oils rose too, albeit more modestly.

The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 171.6 points in December, marginally below its slightly revised value of November.

“International price quotations for bovine meat fell, pressured by increased offerings in both domestic and international markets. However, pig, poultry and ovine meat quotations changed only little, reflecting an overall balanced supply and demand situation,” FAO reported.

For the year, the FAO Meat Price Index averaged 170 points, up 9% from 2016 but 4.7% below the average for the preceding five years (2012-16). In 2017, ovine meat prices recorded the largest increase, followed by prices for pig meat, poultry and bovine meat.

The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 184.4 points in December, down 19.8 points (9.7%) from November and marking the third successive month of decline. FAO said high export supplies in the face of subdued demand weighed on the international prices of all four milk products that constitute this index. Additionally, uncertainty over intervention stocks in the European Union continued to put downward pressure on international price quotations for skim milk powder.

Overall, the FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 202.2 points in 2017, up 31.5% from 2016, with the largest increase recorded for butter, followed by whole milk powder and cheese; skim milk powder prices remained stable.

The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 152.7 points in December, down marginally from November but still up 7.4% from December 2016.

“Ample supplies and slower sales contributed to weaker wheat prices. However, international maize prices firmed slightly, mostly reflecting weather concerns in Argentina, while those of rice also inched up further amid continued firm demand and currency appreciations in some leading exporting countries,” FAO reported.

For the year, the FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 151.6 points, up 3.2% from 2016 but still some 37% below its peak reached in 2011.

The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 162.6 points in December, down 9.6 points (5.6%) from November and marking a five-month low. According to FAO, the drop mainly reflects lower quotations for palm, rapeseed and soybean oils. International palm oil prices tumbled, as stocks in Malaysia and Indonesia swelled to two-year highs on the back of relatively strong production and weak export demand. As for rapeseed oil, upward revisions of crops in Canada and Australia weighed on prices, whereas soybean oil quotations were pressured by rival palm oil.

For the year as a whole, the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged nearly 169 points, up 3% from 2016 but still well below the peaks recorded in 2008 and 2011.

The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 204 points in December, down 8.6 points (4.1%) from November. After a relatively strong rebound in November, FAO reported that international sugar quotations fell in December due to seasonal pressure, subdued demand and expectations for a large surplus in 2018.

For all of 2017, the FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 227.3 points, down 11.2% from 2016 and down as much as 38% from its 2011 peak of 369 points. The decline in sugar prices in 2017 largely reflected a bumper harvest in Brazil, the world’s largest producer, along with strong production recoveries in India and Thailand, FAO said.

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