A broad measure of global food commodity prices fell slightly in April, driven by an easing of corn and vegetable oil prices even as markets continued to grapple with the impact of the war in Ukraine.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Price Index, released Friday, averaged 158.5 points in April, a decline of 0.8% from March, but it was still nearly 30% higher than a year earlier. The FAO index had jumped 13% in March, breaking a record set in February, when the index reached its highest level since its inception in 1990.

The index tracks monthly changes in international prices for a basket of commonly traded commodities.

“The small decrease in the index is a welcome relief, particularly for low-income food-deficit countries, but still food prices remain close to their recent highs, reflecting persistent market tightness and posing a challenge to global food security for the most vulnerable,” said FAO Chief Economist Máximo Torero Cullen.

The index for vegetable oils fell by 5.7% in April, losing a third of its March increase. FAO said “demand rationing pushed down prices for palm, sunflower and soy oils" and that the decline would have been steeper except for uncertainty about Indonesia's exports of palm oil, the mostly widely used vegetable oil. Indonesia, the largest producer of palm oil, banned its export last month.

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FAO’s grain price index slipped 0.7 points in April due to a 3% decline in prices of corn prices. Wheat prices rose by 0.2% in April, reflecting Russia’s continued blockage of Ukrainian ports and concerns over U.S. winter wheat production due to the drought gripping the southern Plains. Higher exports from India and Russia helped moderate the increase in wheat prices. 

FAO said it still predicts global wheat production to grow in 2022 to 782 million tons, despite an expected 20% decline in Ukraine's harvested acreage as well as the impact of a drought in Morocco.

Meat prices rose 2.2% in April as the FAO’s meat index hit a record high, reflecting higher prices for poultry due to the avian flu outbreak this year and the war in Ukraine. Beef prices hit a record high, and pork prices also were up, FAO said.

Dairy prices increased 0.9% in April, while sugar prices rose 3.3%, driven partly by higher prices for fuel ethanol in Brazil.

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