Global food prices hit an all-time high in February, led by sharp increases in vegetable oil and dairy prices as well as higher costs for grains, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

FAO’s food price index averaged 140.7 points last month, breaking the previous record set in February 2011. The February reading was up 3.9% from January and 24.1% over the index one year ago.

The increase comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to roil global grain markets. Chicago wheat futures were trading around $12 a bushel on Friday, up from under $8 at the beginning of February.

FAO’s vegetable oil index rose 15.8% in February, reflecting rising prices for palm, soybean and sunflower oil prices.

Soybean oil prices continued to increase because of “deteriorating soybean production prospects in South America. International sunflower oil prices also increased markedly, underpinned by concerns over the disruptions in the Black Sea region, which could potentially lower exports,” FAO said Friday.

Dairy prices were up 8.5% from January due to tight supplies.

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FAO’s cereal price index rose 3% in January, reflecting the uncertainty created by the Ukraine crisis. Corn prices alone rose 5.1% in February, "underpinned by a combination of continued crop condition concerns in Argentina and Brazil, rising wheat prices, and uncertainty regarding maize exports from Ukraine, a major exporter,” FAO said.

“Concerns over crop conditions and adequate export availabilities explain only a part of the current global food price increases. A much bigger push for food price inflation comes from outside food production, particularly the energy, fertilizer and feed sectors,” said FAO economist Upali Galketi Aratchilage. “All these factors tend to squeeze profit margins of food producers, discouraging them from investing and expanding production.”

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