Weather-related events and increased demand came into play as the FAO Food Price Index registered its sharpest increase since mid-2012, averaging 208.1 points in February 2014, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Thursday.
The new level is 5.2 points, or 2.6 per cent, above a slightly revised index for January, but is still 2.1 per cent lower than last year at the same time, according to an FAO statement received in Dakar.
It said the figures were released amid news reports of spikes in wheat and corn prices in response to recent developments in Ukraine, though the February increase in the Index could not be entirely attributed to those events.
FAO said the Index, based on the prices of a basket of internationally-traded food commodities, saw price upticks in all commodity groups, with the exception of meat, which fell marginally.
The strongest increases since January have been seen in sugar (+6.2 percent) and oils (+4.9 percent), followed by cereals (+3.6 percent) and dairy (+2.9 percent).
'This month's increase follows a long period of declining food prices in general. But it's too early to say if this is a true reversal of the trend,' said Concepción Calpe, FAO Senior Economist.
'The weather is probably a major force driving up prices for certain commodities like sugar or wheat, but brisk demand is also an important factor underpinning maize, dairy and oil prices' Calpe added.
The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 195.8 points in February, up 6.8 points, or 3.6 per cent, from the previous month.
It said in West Africa, the overall food security situation remained stable following an above-average 2013 cereal harvest, but over 20 million people were estimated to be in need of food assistance due to insecurity and reduced crops in parts of the Sahel.