» The FAO Food Price Index* (FFPI) averaged 172.8 points in March 2018, up 1.1 percent (1.8 points) from February, marking the second month of consecutive increase. At this level, the FFPI stood at 0.7 percent above its value of the corresponding month last year. As in February, the month-on-month increase in March was driven primarily by stronger international prices of cereals and dairy; whereas the prices of sugar and vegetable oils fell further and those of meat rose slightly.

» The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 165.6 points in March, 2.7 percent (4.3 points) higher than in February and as much as 12.1 percent above its value in March 2017. The Index has been climbing continuously in recent months, reflecting firmer international prices of nearly all major cereals. In recent weeks, weather concerns, in particular prolonged dryness in the United States and cold wet conditions in parts of Europe, lifted wheat price quotations. However, the increase in maize prices proved even more pronounced, supported by deteriorating crop prospects, especially in Argentina, as well as continued robust world demand. Asian purchases kept international rice prices also generally firm.

» The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 156.8 points in March, falling marginally from February’s multi-month low. Modest price drops for soy, rape and sunflower oils were largely offset by higher prices of palm oil – the most widely traded vegetable oil in the world. Despite expectations of seasonal production gains, palm oil prices firmed in March on the back of robust international demand and consequent inventory drawdowns in Malaysia and Indonesia. The EU’s prospective resumption of imports of palm oil-based biodiesel from Indonesia and renewed strength in mineral oil prices also lent support to palm oil values.

» The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 197.4 points in March, up 6.2 points (3.3 percent) from February and slightly above its level in the corresponding period last year. During the month, international price quotations for butter, Whole Milk Powder (WMP) and cheese rose, while those of SMP declined, reversing the gains recorded in the two preceding months. Lower than anticipated milk production in New Zealand and continued strong global import demand led to higher butter, cheese and WMP prices, while continued pressure from global stocks and higher production pushed down SMP prices.

» The FAO Meat Price Index averaged 169.8 points in March, almost unchanged from February. At this level, the index is 3 percent above the corresponding month last year but still almost 20 percent below the peak reached in August 2014. Across the various meat categories that constitute the index, price quotations for ovine meat increased, pig meat gained slightly, poultry meat remained stable, while those for bovine meat eased. Strong import demand, especially by China, strengthened ovine meat prices. Somewhat tight supplies in Europe underpinned a small increase in pigmeat prices, while subdued demand and expectations for supplies from New Zealand to increase in the coming months weighed on bovine meat values.

» The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged nearly 186 points in March, down 6.5 points (3.4 percent) from February and as much as 27.5 percent below its level the same month last year. Sugar prices continued to fall on account of large export availabilities. A weaker Brazilian Real and relaxed export rules from India, allowing millers to sell overseas until end of the current season, were seen as factors boosting sugar shipments from both countries and resulting in more subdued international price quotations.

* Unlike for other commodity groups, most prices utilized in the calculation of the FAO Meat Price Index are not available when the FAO Food Price Index is computed and published; therefore, the value of the Meat Price Index for the most recent months is derived from a mixture of projected and observed prices. This can, at times, require significant revisions in the final value of the FAO Meat Price Index which could in turn influence the value of the FAO Food Price Index.