Food prices have dropped further from last year’s record highs as farmers encountered favourable weather around the globe, the World Bank said.
The broad declines masked uneven price moves in national economies. Wheat prices have more than doubled from a year ago in Argentina, while corn prices fell more than a third in Russia and Ukraine, the development bank said.
Agricultural markets have softened since mid-2012, when the worst US drought since the 1930s withered corn and soyabean crops and sent consumers searching for alternatives.
The World Bank food price index was 12 per cent lower than a year ago and 16 per cent below its all-time high reached in August of last year.
The fall comes as analysts forecast global grain production to reach new highs of 1.9m tonnes in the current crop year. The US is harvesting a record corn crop this autumn as the drought receded. This follows a massive soyabean haul in Brazil.
“Sustained declines in prices are welcome – we have a lot to be pleased about,” said Ana Revenga, acting vice-president at the World Bank. “But these gains are fragile.”
In Argentina, wholesale wheat prices have risen 143 per cent in the past year, the World Bank said. Prices have soared amid concerns about an overvalued domestic currency and bad weather.
Some of the largest local production pools will no longer operate due to worries about poor returns, the US Department of Agriculture said in an attaché report last month. “With slim profits, producers are in ‘defensive mode’ and try to minimise risks,” USDA said.
In Thailand, wholesale rice prices are down 22 per cent year on year. The country’s rice stockpile is expected to continue to balloon, supported by the government’s rice-buying programme, which has just been renewed for another year. Inventories are forecast to rise 14 per cent in 2014 to 20.4m tonnes, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said this month.
Rice prices climbed 17 per cent in the Philippines between June and October, however, due to production losses associated with cyclones and flooding, the World Bank said. Typhoon Haiyan struck the archipelago earlier this month.
Wholesale maize prices have fallen by 36 per cent from a year ago in Russia and Ukraine, the World Bank said. Ukraine’s corn production has quadrupled from a decade ago and is expected to grow another 38 per cent next year, USDA forecasts.
CBOT December corn fell 1.8 per cent to $4.1725 per bushel on Tuesday, while CBOT December wheat was off 0.9 per cent at $6.4675. CBOT January soyabeans were 0.6 per cent lower at $13.2150 per bushel.
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