UN says food prices up again

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ROME (AP) — International food prices have risen for the second time in two months, a U.N. agency said Thursday blaming bad weather in major exporting countries among other factors that have reversed downward price trends.

On the positive side, the Food and Agriculture Organization is forecasting near record wheat production this year, expected to reach 690 million tons or just below the record 2011 harvest.

The Rome-based agency said its price index rose 1 percent from January to February. The index had climbed nearly 2 percent in January, its first increase in six months. The agency keeps a close watch on prices because an increase in the price of staples in recent years has led to food riots in some countries.

The latest increase was mostly caused by higher prices of sugar, particularly in leading exporter Brazil because of bad weather, oils and cereals.

The agency's monthly report singled out several countries where the combination of unfavorable weather, higher prices and civil strife have increased malnutrition and food insecurity. It listed Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Food security has also deteriorated in Syria and Yemen because of the civil strife, with 1.4 million people in Syria considered "food insecure," the report said.

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