ROME, 2nd June, 2016 (WAM) — The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations today said lower food prices than last year means that the world’s food import bill are on course to fall to US$986 billion this year – below $1 trillion for the first time since 2009 – even as traded volumes increase.

In its biannual Food Outlook, the FAO raised its world cereal production forecast for 2016 to 2 543 million tonnes, just 0.7 percent below the record high of 2014.

At the same time, the forecast for global cereal stocks was raised to 642 million tonnes – less than two million tonnes below their all-time high, driven by a historical revision to China’s wheat inventory.

It said global food commodity markets are on a stable path for the year ahead, with solid production prospects and abundant stocks pointing to a broadly stable outcome for prices and supplies.

Wheat production in 2016 will outstrip utilisation for the fourth year in a row, boosting inventories of the world’s most important cereal to a 15-year high, with major surges in China and the United States, the FAO said.

The FAO also released an updated FAO Food Price Index, which rose in May for the fourth month in a row, increasing by 2.1 percent from April to 155.8 points – still some 7 percent below the level reported one year ago.

Prices rose across the index – a trade-weighted index tracking international market prices for the cereals, vegetable oils, dairy, meat and sugar commodity groups – with the exception of vegetable oils, which subsided after a strong hike in April.