UNITED NATIONS Agricultural food prices dropped sharply worldwide since September 2009 offsetting some increases for those of sugar and cereals, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Thursday.

According to the UN agency’s monthly Food Price Index, meat prices remained stable. An increase in international prices of bovine meat offset a decline for ovine meat, while prices for poultry remained stable.

The trade-weighted index tracks prices on international markets of five major food commodity groups: cereals, meat, dairy products, vegetable oils and sugar.

In July, says FAO, the dairy price index dropped 7.2 per cent from the previous month, mainly due to lower import demand from China, the Middle East and North Africa amid abundant European Union milk production which has resulted in good availability of dairy products for export.

As for the July vegetable oil price index, it was some 5.5 per cent below its June level, reaching its lowest value since July 2009.

The recent slide was primarily caused by a fall in international palm oil prices due to increased production in Southeast Asia combined with slower exports especially from Malaysia. Another reason is a further weakening of soy oil prices on ample supplies for export in South America and a favourable outlook for global supply in 2015-16.

The cereal price index rose by 2 per cent from June, but was still 10.1 per cent below July last year’s level. For the second consecutive month, higher wheat and maize prices, in part due to unfavourable weather in North America and Europe, kept the cereal index rising, but rice prices continued to fall.

The sugar price index rose by 2.5 per cent from June 2015, largely due to less than ideal harvesting conditions in the main producing region of Brazil.