Global food commodity prices remained largely the same in September, despite sugar prices hitting their highest level in 12 years due to El Niño.

The FAO Food Price Index, which is compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, was virtually unchanged last month as declines in vegetable oils, dairy and meat offset increases in the sugar and cereal price indices.

The index stood at 121.3 points versus 121.6 in August but was 10.8% below the September figure last year and 24% down from the all-time high reached in March 2022.

Sugar prices were up 9.8% from August, marking the second consecutive monthly increase and reaching the highest level since September 2011. 

The hike in prices mostly resulted from increasing concerns over a tighter global supply outlook. Early forecasts pointing to production declines in Thailand and India are due to “drier-than-normal” weather conditions associated with the prevailing El Niño event.

The FAO’s cereal index jumped 1% from the previous month, led by a 5.3% increase in international coarse grain prices. Maize prices rose 7%, due to strong demand for Brazilian supplies, slower farmer selling in Argentina and increased barge freight rates in the US.

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The All Rice Price Index edged slightly down by 0.5% month-on-month in September, remaining 27.8% above its year-earlier value. This is due to India banning exports of non-basmati white rice in July in an effort to control rising prices.

Vegetable oil prices fell 3.9% month-on-month due to lower world prices across palm, sunflower, soy and rapeseed oils.

Dairy prices fell for the ninth month in a row, dropping 2.3%. Meat prices dropped marginally from August too as international pig meat prices fell.