Picture: David Ritchie.

Rome - World food prices reached their highest level for 10 months in March due to poor weather in major producing countries and the crisis in Ukraine, a top grain exporter, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said its monthly food price index rose by 4.4 points to 212.8 points - an increase of 2.3 percent from February and the highest level since May 2013.

“The index was influenced, as expected, by unfavourable weather conditions in the US and Brazil and geopolitical tensions in the Black Sea region,” FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian said.

The index saw a particularly sharp rise in the price of sugar, which went up by 7.9 percent to 253.9 points, and cereals Ä up 5.2 percent to 205.8 points.

The rise in cereals prices reflected concern about supplies from Ukraine, one of the top producers in the world and a key exporter to North Africa.

But Abbassian said “the initial fear over disruptions in grain shipments from Ukraine has subsided”.

FAO also downgraded its forecast for global cereal supplies this year to 702 million tonnes from an earlier estimate of 704 million tonnes made last month.

The rice harvest, however was predicted to rise by 0.8 percent to 500 million tonnes although FAO said rice production was not keeping up with population growth.