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March food prices at nearly 7-year high: UN body

Building from a 10-month rise, in March world food prices hit their highest monthly average since June 2014, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Thursday.

The FAO Food Price Index averaged 118.5 points this March, up 2.4 points or 2.1% from a month ago, led by strong gains in the vegetable oil, meat, and dairy sub-indices, while those of cereals and sugar subsided.

This figure is a trade-weighted index that tracks the international market prices of five major food commodity groups.

The vegetable oil price index surged 8% month-on-month to hit a nearly 10-year high in March, with soy oil prices rising sharply due in part to the prospects of firm demand from the biodiesel sector.

The FAO Dairy Price Index rose 3.9% from the previous month, with butter prices buoyed by somewhat tight supplies in Europe associated with increased demand in anticipation of a food-service sector recovery.

Last month, the meat price index rose 2.3% from February, with imports by China and a surge in internal sales in Europe.

The FAO Cereal Price Index dropped 1.8% on a monthly basis this March, but it is still 26.5% higher than in the same month last year, it said.

Still more than 30% above its year-earlier level, the sugar price index also slipped 4.0% during the same period, triggered by prospects of large exports from India.

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