The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that its food price index dropped to an 11-month low in October, but it is still higher than last year and volatile, a UN spokesman said here Thursday.
"The drop in the index was triggered by the sharp declines in international prices of cereals, oils, sugar and dairy products," Eduardo del Buey, the deputy UN spokesperson for the secretary- general, said at a daily news briefing here, citing a report published on Thursday by FAO.
"In spite of this, prices still remain generally higher than last year and continue to be very volatile, the Organization warned," del Buey said.
FAO's Food Price Index averaged 216 points last month, down 4 percent from September, the agency said in a news release. The index is a measure of basic food prices at the global level."The drop was triggered by sharp declines in international prices of cereals, oils, sugar and dairy products," said FAO. " Meat prices declined the least."
The agency attributes the decline to an improved supply outlook for a number of commodities and uncertainty about global economic prospects. A record harvest is expected this year for cereals, said the biannual Food Outlook report, which forecasts a record 2, 325 million tones -- 3.7 percent above last year. Cereal prices are expected to stay relatively firm well into 2012.
Most agricultural commodity prices could remain below their recent highs in the months ahead, according to the FAO report, which analyzes developments in global food and feed markets.
FAO said that global cereal prices have declined in recent months, with the Cereal Price Index registering an 11-month-low of 232 points in October. Prices, on average, however, remain 5 percent higher than last year's already high level.
High food prices, according to the Outlook, are putting pressure on the world's poorest nations, with the food import bills of the least developed countries (LDCs) soaring by almost a third from last year. The global cost of national food imports is expected to approach 1.3 trillion U.S. dollars this year.
The new issue of the Outlook also includes a chapter on the new Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), established by the Group of 20 leading economies (G20) earlier this year and housed at FAO headquarters in Rome.
AMIS, managed by a joint Secretariat composed of nine international organizations, has the capacity to collect, analyze and disseminate information on a regular basis regarding the current and future food market situation and food policies.