ROME, ITALY — Globally traded food commodity prices declined in November, led by marked drops for palm oil and other vegetable oils, the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations (FAO) said.
The FAO Food Price Index averaged 160.8 points for the month of November, down 1.3% from October and 8.5% from a year earlier. The index, an indicator of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, is now at its lowest level since May 2016.
The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index hit a 12-year low, declining 5.7% from October. Large palm oil inventories and abundant supplies of soy and sunflower oils fueled the decline.
The FAO Cereal Price Index, covering wheat, coarse grains and rice, dropped 1.1% during the month, reflecting large export supplies of wheat, deepened export competition for maize and new crop arrivals of rice.
The FAO also released a new Cereal Supply and Demand Brief, marking down its forecast for world cereal production in 2018 to 2.595 billion tonnes, some 2.4% below the record high reached last year.
According to the FAO, the new forecast figures do not incorporate recent and significant historical revisions made by China to its grain production estimates, for maize in particular, which are under review by the FAO with an eye to updated assessments early next year.
“World rice production this year remains on course to reach a new high of 513 million tonnes, representing a 1.3% increase from 2017,” the FAO said. “By contrast, FAO lowered its forecast for global wheat output to 725.1 million tonnes due to smaller-than-earlier expected harvests in Turkey and Russia. The projection for world production of coarse grains was also lowered, to 1.357 billion tonnes, due to downward revisions to barley and sorghum outputs.”
The FAO said it expects greater planting of winter wheat crops in the northern hemisphere as well as higher maize production in much of the southern hemisphere, although the prospects of a possible El Niño event impair the outlook in South Africa and neighboring countries.
World cereal utilization during the 2018-19 season is expected to rise by 1.3% to 2.649 billion tonnes, led by stronger feed and industrial uses of maize.
“World cereal stocks are forecast to stand at 762 million tonnes by the close of seasons in 2019, some 6.5% below their all-time high opening levels,” the FAO said. “Maize inventories are anticipated to contract by 14%, while wheat stocks should decline by at least 12%. World rice stocks, by contrast, are expected to increase by 2.7% to hit an historical high of 177 million tonnes.”
International trade in cereals is still forecast to contract in 2018-19, though the decline, estimated at 1.1%, is smaller than it was anticipated in November.