An index of world food commodity prices edged up in March after seven straight months of decline, largely driven by price increases for soybean and other vegetable oils.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index increased 1.1% to 118.3 points in March but was still 7.7% lower than the level in March 2023. The index averaged 124.7 in 2023 and 144.7 in 2022.

The price indexes for dairy products and meat as well as vegetable oils were higher last month. The vegetable oil index rose 8%, reflecting high prices for palm, sunflower and rapeseed oils as well as soybean.

Soybean oil prices “recovered from multi-year lows, mostly supported by continued robust demand from the biofuel sector, particularly in the United States of America and Brazil,” FAO said. “Likewise, sunflower and rapeseed oil prices recovered in March, amid rising global import demand. Furthermore, higher crude oil prices also contributed to the increase in vegetable oil quotations.”

The meat price index rose 1.7% in March on higher prices for poultry, pork and beef, and was only 1.5% below the level a year ago. Chicken prices were "underpinned by continued steady import demand from leading importing countries, despite ample supplies mostly sustained by reduced avian influenza outbreaks in major producing countries,” FAO said.

Pork prices were higher in March mainly because of rising demand ahead of the Easter holidays. Beef prices “continued to rise in March, mainly due to increased purchases by leading importing countries,” FAO said.

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Wheat prices pulled the index for cereal grains down 2.6%  last month, leaving it 20% below its level a year ago.

Global wheat export prices declined for the third straight month, largely due to strong competition between Russia, the European Union and the United States, FAO said.

“Amid ample supplies, cancelled wheat purchases by China (from both Australia and the United States of America) placed downward pressure on markets, while favorable crop prospects for the 2024 harvest in the Russian Federation and the United States of America also contributed to the softer price tone,” FAO said.  

Corn prices were slightly higher in March due to the state of harvests in South America.

Meanwhile, the sugar price index fell 5.4% after two consecutive monthly increases and was still 4.8% above the level a year ago.

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