World Food Prices Little Changed in November, Oils Jump, UN Says

World food prices were little changed in November as falling prices for grain and sugar partially compensated for a jump in the cost of cooking oils, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said.

An index of 55 food items slipped to 206.3 points last month from a restated 206.6 in October, the Rome-based FAO wrote in an online report today. The global food price index is down 4.4 percent from a year earlier.

The FAO’s index for vegetable oil prices jumped 5.6 percent after palm oil surged on global import demand and as production in Southeast Asia was less than expected on excessive rainfall. Malaysia palm oil futures rose 2.4 percent in November after climbing 12 percent in October.

“A sharp decline in sugar prices last month nearly offset the rise in oils,” the FAO wrote. “Cereals averaged slightly lower but meat and dairy values were stable.”

The jump in cooking oil prices was the biggest since January 2011, according to the FAO’s data.

Corn and wheat prices have slumped in the past 12 months on an outlook for rising production, with Chicago corn futures sliding 43 percent. The world’s farmers are forecast to lift corn production 10 percent to 949.8 million tons in 2013-14, according to the International Grains Council.

The FAO’s grain price index fell 1.2 percent from a month earlier to 194.2 points. The sugar-price gauge slumped 5.4 percent to 250.6 points, mainly due to better harvesting in Brazil, according to the UN agency.

An index of global dairy prices was little changed at 251.4 points last month, while the meat index was at 187.1 points compared with 187.3 in October, the FAO reported.