ROME — The benchmark index of international food commodity prices declined in February for the 11th consecutive month, albeit only marginally, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported on March 3.

The FAO Food Price Index averaged 129.8 points in February, a marginal 0.6% decrease from January but down nearly 19% from its peak in March 2022. The decline in the index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities, reflected drops in quotations for vegetable oils and dairy products that more than offset a steep rise in sugar prices.

The FAO Cereal Price Index remained virtually unchanged from January. International wheat prices rose marginally during the month, as concerns over dry conditions in the United States and robust demand for supplies from Australia largely were countered by a strong competition among exporters.

International rice prices eased by 1% due to a slowdown in trading activities in most major Asian exporters, whose currencies also depreciated against the United States dollar.

The FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index declined 3.2% from January, with the world prices of palm, soy, sunflowerseed and rapeseed oils all lower.

The FAO Dairy Price Index declined 2.7% during the month, with butter and skim milk powder international quotations registering the steepest decline.

The FAO Meat Price Index also remained almost unchanged from January. World poultry prices continued to decline amid abundant export supplies, notwithstanding the avian influence outbreaks in several leading producer countries, while international pig meat prices rose, mostly due to concerns over tighter export availabilities in Europe.

In contrast, the FAO Sugar Price Index rose 6.9% from January to its highest level in six years, due largely to a downward revision to the 2022-23 production forecast in India, although favorable crop prospects in other suppliers, combined with lower international crude oil prices and ethanol prices in Brazil, limited upward pressure on sugar prices.