ROME (Reuters) - World food prices were broadly steady in March, with a jump in dairy prices offset by drops in cereal, vegetable oil and sugar price quotations, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.
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 167.0 points last month up from 166.8 in February.
The index was 3.6 percent below its level of one year ago.
The FAO dairy price index jumped 6.2 percent from February’s value, driven by strong import demand for butter, whole milk powder and cheese. The meat price index rose 0.4 percent month-on-month.
By contrast, FAO’s vegetable oil price index fell 4.4 percent from the previous month, due partly to limited demand for palm oil, while its sugar index dropped 2.1 percent and its cereal index fell 2.2 percent on February.
FAO raised its latest world cereal production forecast for 2018 to 2.655 billion tonnes, against the 2.609 billion it forecast a month ago. The figure was still 1.8 percent down on a year-on-year basis.
The U.N. agency said the latest forecast contained sharply raised estimates for global cereal production, utilization and stocks following the release of new data from China for the period 2007-2017.
“FAO’s new estimate for global cereal stocks for crop years ending in 2019 has been scaled up by almost 11 percent to 849 million tonnes, mostly reflecting larger holdings in China,” the agency said in a statement.
The U.N. agency forecast for world wheat production in 2019 remained steady on 757 million tonnes, four percent above the 2018 level but short of the record high registered in 2017.
(This story has been refilled to clarify in second paragraph the index rose rather than fell)
Reporting by Crispian Balmer