The FAO’s monthly report on food price trends was released on April 10. The bulletin reports on recent food price developments over the past month at the global, regional, and country levels, with a focus on developing countries, and provides early warnings for high country-level food prices that may negatively affect food security.

Food prices showed mixed global trends in March, with most either declining or remaining stable. The benchmark US wheat price averaged 196 dollars per ton in March, down 6 percent from February and 4 percent from a year earlier. These decreases were driven by ample global availability caused by good rains in most of the main global growing regions. Similarly, the benchmark US maize prices averaged around 159 dollars per ton in March, down 3 percent from February and around the same level as a year earlier. These downward pressures were mainly driven by expectations of a bumper crop in the southern hemisphere. The FAO rice price index remained relatively stable in March, as a slight decline in global Indica rice prices was offset by minor increases in basmati prices.

Several countries received domestic food price warnings this month. These warnings mean that the prices of one or more basic food commodity are at abnormally high levels, which could negatively impact access to food. The countries that received warnings include Ecuador, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Tanzania. In Ecuador, maize prices continued to increase and were at record highs in parts of the country, mainly due to excessive rains and high levels of humidity. Similarly, in Ethiopia, maize prices continued to increase, rising by 30 percent in March due to early season dryness. In Kenya, maize prices reached near-record highs due to poor rains throughout the year. Similarly, in Malawi and Tanzania, maize prices increased sharply due to early season dryness, as well as army worm infestations in Malawi and poor 2016 rains in Tanzania.

In Nigeria, although the rate of food price increases slowed over the past month, food prices continued to increase and remain at high levels. High food prices have mainly been driven by a sharp depreciation of the Nigerian Naira over the past year, as well as ongoing civil insecurity. In Somalia, sorghum and maize prices continued to decline in March, mainly due to emergency food aid distributions that increased supplies (Somalia’s domestic sorghum and maize production in 2016 was the lowest since 1988 as a result of severe drought). In South Sudan, maize and sorghum prices increased in March and were between 2 and 5 times higher than a year earlier; these increases are being driven by insecurity, inflation, and a depreciation of the local currency. In Sri Lanka, rice prices declined sharply due to a good main harvest; however, prices remained 20 percent above their year earlier levels due to a poor 2016 secondary harvest.

In West Africa, coarse grain prices generally increased in March. In Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali, prices increased and were above their year earlier levels despite above average harvests, due to ongoing institutional purchases. Similarly, coarse grain prices rose in Chad, Senegal, and Togo, but were below their year-earlier levels in these countries. Prices also continued to increase in Nigeria due to a sharp depreciation of the Naira and ongoing civil insecurity.

Maize prices in Southern Africa fell in March due to a favorable 2017 production outlook. South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique and Malawi all experienced price decreases due to favorable production forecasts. In Zimbabwe, maize prices remained relatively stable and below year-earlier levels.

In Eastern Africa, cereal prices rose to record or near-record levels in March. These high prices were generally driven by a poor, drought-induced 2016 harvest and concerns over the 2017 harvest. Prices increased sharply in all countries in the sub-region (Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and South Sudan) except for Somalia, which experienced price declines due to increased supplies from emergency food aid distribution. In Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, cereal prices remained very high due to a relatively poor 2016 harvest caused by dry weather.

In Central America, maize and red bean prices decreased in March and were significantly below their year-earlier levels. This is mainly driven by ample supplies from the main and secondary harvests, which are helping prices recover from two years of drought-reduced harvests.

In East Asia, domestic rice and wheat prices remained relatively stable in March. Rice prices increased slightly in Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Bangladesh due to seasonal trends and strong export sales. In Thailand and Sri Lanka, prices decreased due to the release of government stocks in Thailand and the beginning of the main harvest in Sri Lanka. Prices also decreased in China, Indonesia, and the Philippines, reflecting adequate supplies due to the recent completion of harvests. Prices remained relatively stable in India.

In South America, maize and wheat prices showed mixed trends in March; maize prices generally decreased, while wheat prices remained relatively stable. Maize prices decreased in all countries except for Ecuador, driven by favorable production outlooks for 2017. In contrast, maize prices reached record highs in Ecuador due to tight supplies and an increase in pest and fungal infestations.

All the data used in the analysis can be found in the FPMA Tool.

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