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Coronavirus outbreak helps push FAO Food Price Index down

09.03.2020 12:30 "Agro Perspectiva" (Kyiv) World food prices declined in February for the first time in four months due to a sharp fall in the export prices of vegetable oils, partly driven by fears that the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak will slow global demand.

The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities, averaged 180.5 points in February, down 1.0 percent from the previous month but still 8.1 percent higher than a year earlier.

The FAO Vegetable Oil Index declined 10.3 percent from January, with international palm oil prices falling by even more on account of higher-than-expected output in Malaysia, a temporary drop in India’s import demand and concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

The FAO Cereal Price Index declined 0.9 percent in February. Wheat prices were lower, reflecting well-supplied markets, while maize prices retreated as demand from the livestock feed sector dipped amid expectations of a weakening global economy. By contrast, international rice prices rose, buoyed by strong demand from Far Eastern and East African buyers.

The FAO Meat Price Index was down by 2.0 percent from January, influenced by reduced imports by China impacted by delays in cargo handling in ports. Drought-induced slaughter in New Zealand exerted further pressure on ovine meat price quotations, while poultry meat prices were affected by lower imports by Asia.

The FAO Dairy Price Index rose 4.6 percent, led by surging price quotations for cheese, partly linked to reduced milk output in Australia. Milk powders, by contrast, dipped as logistical bottlenecks slowed purchases by China, the world’s largest milk powder importer.

The FAO Sugar Price Index rose 4.5 percent amid prospects of lower production in India as well as in Thailand, combined with a strong global import demand.

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