FAO sees cereals output rebounding, weighing on food prices

A projected rebound in global wheat and maize production this year will weigh on food prices but strong demand will prevent prices falling far from high levels, the United Nations’ food agency said Thursday.

Maize production is expected to rise by 10 per cent in 2013 while wheat output is set to hit a new record, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS).

“Prices will be under downward pressure,” said FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian, adding however, that declines would be limited by strong demand and were unlikely to drop back to levels seen before a food price spike in 2007-08.

FAO’s price index, which measures monthly price changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy meat and sugar, averaged 215.2 points in May, against 215.8 points in April.

Declines in dairy and sugar costs were offset by rising maize prices, which were boosted by tightening export supplies and planting delays, FAO said.

Despite falling slightly, the index is still close to levels reached over the summer of 2012 when food prices spiked up due to a historic drought in the United States and dry weather in other major grains producers.

It is also near to levels seen during a food crisis in 2008 when shortages led to riots in some poor countries, though the situation at the time was aggravated by export bans and record high oil prices.

A joint report by FAO and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on Thursday said prices of both crop and livestock products are set to rise over the next decade due to a combination of slower production growth and stronger demand from countries including China, the world’s most populous nation.

FAO and AMIS — a monitoring organisation set up by the group of 20 leading economies (G20) — estimated wheat production would rise 6.5 per cent to 702 million tonnes in 2013/2014, due to a rebound in Europe and Black Sea region.

They estimated maize production would rise to 963 million tonnes, mainly because of an anticipated recovery in the United States.

— Reporting for Reuters by Catherine Hornby in Rome.

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