ROME, April 4 (Xinhua) -- World food prices dipped slightly in March, ending a streak of three consecutive monthly increases, though the index still remained near its highest levels in nearly a year, according to the Food Price Index released Thursday by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Despite remaining near their highest levels since August 2018, prices are still 3.6 percent below their level a year ago.
The biggest rise in the index came from dairy prices, which climbed 6.2 percent compared to February, with prices for butter, whole powdered milk, and cheese rising on speculation about lower production from Australia and New Zealand. Dairy prices have now risen every month this year.
Prices for rice and cereals, the biggest component in the FAO index, dropped 2.2 percent, although rice prices edged higher. That was balanced by lower prices for wheat and corn based on higher availability from the United States and Brazil, respectively.
Meat prices were mostly unchanged, with weaker demand in Europe helping to keep demand steady.
Among the other components of the index, prices for oils and fats fell 4.4 percent after rising for three straight months, with soy oil prices falling the most. Sugar prices were down 2.1 percent on strong supply from India, which has just displaced Brazil as the world's leading sugar producer.
The monthly FAO Food Price Index is based on worldwide prices for 23 food commodity categories covering prices for 73 different products compared to a baseline year.
The next index is scheduled to be released on April 9.