Record stocks to keep food prices low in 2017: Rabobank

By Nigel Hunt | LONDON

LONDON Record-high stocks should keep world food prices low during 2017 even as inflation starts to rise in many developed economies, agribusiness bank Rabobank said in a report on Wednesday.

Staple food commodities such as wheat, corn and soybeans are being stored in record volumes, keeping a lid on the prices which are expected to be paid to farmers next year.

Rising global demand should, however, stem a three-year decline in prices, the bank said.

“The global population is growing and prosperity is rising, fuelling the switch to more expensive, meat and dairy-rich diets. In our view global food prices should in the main hold up, even if farmers are braced for little or no commodity price growth during the year,” Stefan Vogel, Rabobank’s head of agri commodity markets said.

Rabobank said much could depend on China which has huge stocks of many commodities including corn, wheat and soybeans.

“The most striking wild card in this is China … Any decision by China’s policymakers to begin selling down these reserves would have a profound effect on world markets as Chinese imports would decline,” Vogel said.

The Rabobank report, which looked the prospects for 13 food and agricultural commodities, was bearish about the outlook for arabica coffee and palm oil.

The bank forecast a fourth quarter 2017 arabica coffee price of $1.49 per lb, down 10 percent from $1.65 seen for the fourth quarter of this year.

“We expect a strong production increase in washed coffee in 2016/17 … It is too early to predict 2017/18 production in Central America and Colombia but with the current price scenario, prospects are good,” Rabobank said.

Malaysian palm oil futures were forecast to average 2,300 ringgit a tonne in the fourth quarter of 2017, down 15 percent from a year earlier.

“Following a very strong El Nino event in 2015/16 … production in 2016/17 is forecast to rebound by 9 million tonnes or 5 percent to a record 186 million tonnes,” the bank said.

(Reporting by Nigel Hunt, editing by David Evans)

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