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Business

FAO sees kernel of hope in stable food prices

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said global food prices remained steady in August after spiking 10 percent in July. The new data could help allay fears of a price squeeze around the world.

FAO's Food Price Index averaged 213 points in August, unchanged from the month of July, and well below a peak of 238 points reached in February 2011, the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization said in its monthly report released Thursday.

The FAO index, measuring monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, dairy, meat, sugar and oilseeds, was 18 points below its August 2011 reading, but close to the levels reached in 2008, when spikes in prices had hampered people's access to the most crucial of commodities.

In the statement, FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva said August prices did not "justify talk of a world food crisis" emerging, adding, however, that the international community should move to "calm markets further."

Global food prices jumped 10 percent from June to July this year, prompting renewed fears for the food supply of millions in the world's poorer regions, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

The spike was mainly caused by severe drought in the United States, which is expected to result in a drop of US corn production by 13 percent this year, as well as more modest harvests in Russia.

FAO is seeking to prevent a repeat of the 2008 food crisis, which was caused by sudden spikes in oil and grain prices, as well as shortages in global food stockpiles.

Silva said he was "reassured" that the drought problems in the US would not "pull" the world into a situation comparable with 2008.

Nevertheless, FAO called for more coordinated efforts by producers to deal with food price spikes, as well as long-term policies to mitigate the effects of climate change and a growing world population.

uhe/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)