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Cheese, maize drive global food commodity prices higher in May

Global commodity prices for key food ingredients rose for the fifth straight month, led by rising prices of cheese and maize due to adverse weather conditions, according to the latest data from the UN’s Food Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The FAO Food Price Index averaged 172.4 points in May 2019, up 1.2% from April but still 1.9% below its level in May 2018.

The Cereal Price Index averaged 162.3 points in May, up 1.4% from April, and 6% below its May 2018 value. The small increase was entirely driven by a sudden surge in maize quotations in response to diminishing production prospects in the U.S., where planting of the crop is off to the slowest pace ever recorded due to widespread flooding and rain. Wheat prices generally dipped, while those of rice held broadly steady.

The Vegetable Oil Price Index averaged 127.4 points in May, down 1.1% from April and lingering well below its year-earlier level. The drop mainly reflected lower values of palm oil because of large inventory levels in leading exporting countries. Prices of soy, sunflower ad rapeseed oils increased modestly.

The Dairy Price Index averaged 226.1 points in May, up 5.2% from April, pushing the index 24.2% higher than at the start of the year and closer to a five-year high. A sharp upswing in cheese price quotations was mainly behind the strong increase in May, with other dairy products represented in the index also remaining above their January levels.

The Sugar Price Index averaged 176 points in May 2019, down 3.2% from April. The latest monthly decline in international sugar prices was largely driven by the prospects of increased sugar output in India, the world’s largest sugar producer. In addition, weaker international energy prices negatively affected international sugar prices by encouraging producers to process sugarcane into sugar instead of ethanol.

The Meat Price Index averaged 170.2 points in May, up marginally from April and continuing the moderate month-on-month price increases registered since the beginning of the year. Pig meat price quotations continued to rise amid strong import demand from East Asia, where the African Swine Fever has decimated production. Bovine meat prices eased from their April highs, reflecting elevated global export supplies.

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