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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        9  April 2011

Food prices drop in March

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A new report released by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Friday showed that global food prices declined in March, their first decrease in eight months.

David Hallam, FAO-Trade and Market Division director, said the global Food Price Index has dropped for the first time after eight consecutive months of price increases.

The index averaged 230 points, down by 2.9 percent after peaking in the previous month. However, the March figure was still 37 percent higher than a year ago.

Hallam warned that it is still premature to conclude a reversal in the upward trend of food prices.

He said low stock levels, the devastation in Japan, and the political tensions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will contribute to the uncertainty and price volatility over the coming months.

“We need to see the information on new plantings over the next few weeks to get an idea of future production levels,” Hallam said.

The FAO index showed that oil and sugar led the decline in prices, followed by cereals, whereas dairy products and meat prices increased during the period.

Based on the report, the cereal price index dropped by 2.6 percent to 252 points in March, but was still 60 percent above year ago levels.

The oil and fats price index fell 19 points or 7 percent in March.

Rice prices also fell as a result of sluggish import demand amid the abundant supply in the rice exporting countries.

The sugar price index averaged 372 points in March, down as much as 10 percent from the highs of January and February.

The dairy price index averaged 234 points in March, up 1.9 percent from February, and 37 percent higher than a year ago. The meat price index averaged 169 points in March, little changed from February.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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