Moving downward for the fourth consecutive month, global food prices hit a 17-month low in May, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday.

The food price index dropped 1.9% on a monthly basis, averaging 162.5 last month, as supplies appeared strong and demand weakened due to economic contractions triggered by COVID-19, the FAO said.

The values of all the sub-indices except sugar posted falls in the month.

The FAO Food Price Index is a trade-weighted index that tracks international market prices of five major food commodity groups.

The sugar price index in May rose 7.4% from the previous month due to lower-than-expected harvests in some major countries.

The dairy price index slipped 7.3% month-on-month in May, led by steep drops in the quotations for butter and cheese due to seasonal supply factors and lower import demand.

Last month, the vegetable oil price index slipped 2.8% from April to a 10-month low.

“While quotations for rapeseed and sunflower oil prices increased, those for palm oil fell for the fourth consecutive month, reflecting subdued global import demand and higher-than-expected production and inventory levels in major exporting countries,” it added.

The FAO Cereal Price Index was down 1% month-on-month, while among major cereals, only rice prices rose in May.

Meat price indexes posted a 0.8% decrease during the same period.

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