Food Prices Near 2-Year High Thanks to a Record Surge in Butter and Wheat

  • FAO’s food-price index rose in June, also due to gains in meat
  • Wheat-production forecast lowered as drought hits crops

Spring Wheat Leading Charge in Agriculture Rebalancing

Record butter prices, gains in meat and wheat’s drought-fueled rally have pushed global food costs to near the highest in two years.

Limited export availability in the dairy market has made products including butter and cheese more expensive, while hot and dry weather in the U.S. and Europe in the past month sent wheat futures surging. That helped a gauge of food prices rise by 1.4 percent in June, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization said in a report Thursday.

“This is a month for wheat prices, and meat is firming up,” Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the FAO in Rome, said by phone. “A lot of the increases in the dairy market come from the butter situation.”

The FAO’s food index has rebounded 17 percent since touching a seven-year low in early 2016. The latest increase comes after worries the weather impact on crops in North America and western Europe sent wheat futures to multiyear highs. The meat market has also been hit by limited export supplies from some nations, as well as strong demand, and there have also been concerns about bird flu affecting poultry, the FAO said.

The organization’s food-price index rose to 175.2 points last month, near a two-year high set in February.

Some price changes for June:

  • Butter jumped 14 percent to a record.
  • Meat rose 1.8 percent, up for a sixth month.
  • Grains gained 4.2 percent to a one-year high.

In a separate report, the FAO cut its estimate for this year’s wheat harvest by 0.4 percent to 739.9 million metric tons. Still, grain stockpiles will probably finish the 2017-18 season at a record high after bumper grain harvests from Russia to Australia.

Read more: It’s a scorcher: dusty wheat fields signal peak for glut

“The wheat story is the interesting one,” Abbassian said. “On the one hand, you have these huge supplies, but on the other hand there is a potential for tightening of high-quality wheat which has pushed up prices.”

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