Declining Food Prices, Tight Cereal Stocks

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), global food prices decreased by 1.5% between October and November, and were on average 3% lower than in the same month in 2011.

The FAO Food Price Index, most recently published on December 6th, measures the monthly change in price of commodities such as cereals, dairy products and oilseed, using a point system. In November, food prices averaged 211 points. This is below the previous price peaks in June 2008 and February 2011, and the lowest figure since June 2012 when prices started to climb due to droughts in the US and the Black Sea region. In general, however, food prices remain at a high level, especially for grain: The FAO Cereal Price Index went down slightly to 256 points – but is still up 12% compared to November last year, and only 18 points below the record high of 274 points in April 2008. These figures largely match up with the World Bank’s Food Price Watch report published at the end of November. “A new norm of high prices seems to be consolidating. Although we haven’t seen a food crisis such as the one of 2008, food security should remain a priority”, said Otaviano Canuto, the Bank’s Vice President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management.

Last week, the FAO also announced last that world cereal production is expected to decrease by 2.8% from last year’s record crop to an estimated 2282 million tonnes. These figures are lower than the forecasts published last month due to new estimates on maize harvests in the Ukraine and Russia, and reduced wheat prospects in Australia and Brazil. World cereal stocks could decline to 495 million tonnes, posing the danger of more volatile food prices. With lower stocks, any unexpected developments create more variability in the prices than would otherwise, Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior FAO economist told Reuters.