Food prices around the world surged to a new historic peak in January, for the seventh consecutive month, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today, adding that the prices are not likely to decline in the months ahead.
According to the FAO, its latest Food Price Index, a commodity basket that tracks monthly changes in global food prices, averaged 231 points in January and was up 3.4 per cent from December last year " the highest level since the agency started measuring food prices in 1990.
It added that prices of all monitored commodity groups surged in January, except the cost of meat, which remained unchanged.
The new figures clearly show that the upward pressure on world food prices is not abating. These high prices are likely to persist in the months to come, " said Abdolreza Abbassian, an FAO economist and grains expert. High food prices are of major concern especially for low-income food deficit countries that may face problems in financing food imports and for poor households which spend a large share of their income on food. "
Mr. Abbasian added that the only encouraging factor so far " stems from a number of countries where good harvests helped domestic prices of some of the food staples remain low compared to world prices.
Late last year, the FAO warned that international food import bills could pass the one trillion dollar mark in 2010 with prices in most commodities up sharply from 2009. It also warned the international community to prepare for harder times ahead unless production of major food crops increases significantly in 2011.
In relation to its Food Price Index, FAO said the index has been revised, largely reflecting adjustments to its meat price index. The revision, which is retroactive, has produced new figures for all the indices, but the overall trends measured since 1990 remain unchanged.
The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 245 points in January, up three per cent from December and the highest since July 2008, but still 11 percent below its peak in April 2008. The agency said the increase in January mostly reflected continuing increases in international prices of wheat and maize, amid declining supplies, while rice prices fell slightly, as the timing coincides with the harvesting of main crops in major exporting countries.
The Oils/Fats Price Index rose by 5.6 per cent to 278 points, nearing the June 2008 record level, a reflection of an increasingly tight supply and demand balance across the different oilseeds; while the Dairy Price Index averaged 221 points in January, up 6.2 per cent from December, but still 17 per cent below its peak in November 2007. FAO noted that a firm global demand for dairy products, against the backdrop of a normal seasonal decline of production in the southern hemisphere, continued to underpin dairy prices.
The Sugar Price Index averaged 420 points in January, up 5.4 per cent from December, as international sugar prices remain high, driven by tight global supplies. FAO said that its Meat Price Index, by contrast, was steady at around 166 points, as declining meat prices in Europe " the result of a fall in consumer confidence following a feed contamination scandal " was compensated for by a slight increase in export prices from Brazil and the United States.