World food prices stable in November, drought in west Africa raises worries of famine

ROME, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- World food prices were flat in November, as prices remained stable overall, with lower sugar prices pushing the main index lower amid a rise in cooking oil prices, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

FAO also estimated worldwide production of grain and cereals, including rice, would reach a new all-time high this year, likely guaranteeing price stability for that food sector as well.

Prices rose in October after falling in each of the previous five months. After holding steady compared to October's levels in November, prices were still 4.4 percent lower than a year ago.

Despite stable prices in recent months and predicted for the coming months as well, FAO, in its Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report, predicted dry weather in the West African states of Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal would hurt production there and could lead to famine risks heading into next year.

So far, the year 2013 has seen the most stable food prices in at least five years, following an unusual volatile year for food prices in 2012.

FAO's World Food Outlook is based on a basket of 55 goods and 73 price quotations in five major food commodity groups.

The next installment of the FAO World Food Price Index will be released on Jan. 9.