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World food prices edge down 0.4 percent in November: U.N. FAO

ROME (Reuters) - World food prices edged lower in November, interrupting an almost continuous trend higher this year, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

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Except for a downward tick in July, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food price index had been rising steadily this year after hitting a seven-year low in January.

FAO said in a statement the index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 171.3 points in November, 0.4 percent below the month before.

But prices were 10.4 percent higher than in November of last year, it added.

Sugar prices dropped 8.9 percent in November from the previous month, largely due to a weakening of the Brazilian real against the U.S. dollar, FAO said.

At the same time, vegetable oil prices were up 4.5 percent on the month to their highest level since August 2014 amid strong demand for palm oil and lower-than-expected production in Southeast Asia. Dairy prices also rose.

While meat prices were unchanged, cereal prices fell slightly as FAO marginally raised its forecast for world cereal production in the 2016-17 season to 2.577 billion tonnes, 1.7 percent higher than 2015’s output.

Cereals have been boosted in recent weeks by favorable growing conditions allowing late-season harvesting, FAO said.

Wheat output, with most of the crop already harvested, is expected to be 749 million tonnes in 2016, 1.9 percent more than in 2015.

The forecast for world maize output was raised to 1.027 billion tonnes, 2.9 million tonnes more than the previous forecast, as production in the United States was expected to reach a new record, FAO said.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; editing by Agnieszka Flak and David Evans