A butcher weighs a piece of pork at a Walmart in Beijing, China. Picture: REUTERS/TINGSHU WANG
A butcher weighs a piece of pork at a Walmart in Beijing, China. Picture: REUTERS/TINGSHU WANG

Rome — World food prices rose strongly in November, lifted by big jumps in prices of meat and vegetable oils, the UN’s food agency said on Thursday.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar hit a 26-month high in November, averaging 177.2 points, up 2.7% on the previous month and up more than 9.5% year-on-year.

The meat price index registered its largest month-on-moth increase since May 2009, rising 4.6%  from October to 190.5 points, with beef and sheep meat rising most strongly, lifted by demand from China and year-end holiday demand.  China has been battling an African swine fever outbreak that has lead to the slaughter of hundreds of millions of pigs. Analysts and producers warn that the impact of the outbreak  could last for several more years.

The FAO also predicted that cereal production would reach an all-time high of 2.714-billion tonnes in 2019, up 0.4% from its last forecast. The cereal price index fell 1.2% to 162.4 points, with large export supplies and strong competition among world producers weighing on wheat prices.

Wheat output was seen up 4.8% at 766.4-million tonnes.

Rice prices fell to six-month lows as new crop arrivals added pressure. Global rice production was seen at 515-million tonnes, up 1.6-million tonnes from the previous forecast, implying a 0.5% fall from the 2018 all-time high, the agency said.

The vegetable oil price index rose 10.4% to 150.6 points, reaching its highest point since May 2018, led by firmer palm oil prices, which strengthened on robust import demand, increased biodiesel use and concerns over possible supply shortages.

The sugar price index averaged 181.6 points, up 1.8% from October, led by expectations of higher demand.

The FAO dairy price index averaged 192.6 points, only marginally up from October, after two months of declines.