Rising prices for key cereals and grains including rice helped push the World Food Price Index higher in February, the Rome-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Thursday.
The overall index rose 2.6 percent to 208.1 points. The index has now risen or held steady in four of the past five months, though it remains 2.1 percent lower than it was a year ago.
Cereal and grain prices were the main culprit, with the sub index -- the largest component of the overall index -- rising 3.6 percent compared with the data in January. That is its strongest one-month rise since mid-2012, and it was pushed by rising wheat prices as demand rose for animal feed and biofuel. But rice prices rose as well, based on stronger demand from the biggest Asian markets.
Other prices rose as well: prices for fats and oils rose 4.9 percent, dairy prices were 2.9 percent higher, and sugars registered a 6.2-percent gain.
Prices for meat were the only part of the index that fell, slipping 0.5 percent compared with the January levels.
FAO officials predicted increased volatility in food prices in the medium-term.
FAO's World Food Price Index is based on a basket of 55 goods and 73 price quotations in five major food commodity groups.