ROME – Weather and politics caused a sharp increase in the FAO Food Price Index for March. The index jumped 4.8 points, or 2.3 percent, to an average of 212.8, the highest level since May 2013.

"The Index was influenced, as expected, by unfavorable weather conditions in the US and Brazil and geopolitical tensions in the Black Sea region," said Abdolreza Abbassian, FAO Senior Economist.

The FAO Food Price Index is based on the prices of a basket of internationally-traded food commodities. Prices increased in all groups except dairy, which fell for the first time in four months by 2.5 percent. Sugar and cereals made the greatest gains at 7.9 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively.

The Meat Price Index gained 2.7 points to an average of 185 points in March, according to FAO. The agency attributed the gains to higher beef prices. Dry weather conditions affected production in both Australia and the United States. Pork prices also rose, in part on concerns over the effect of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus on US pork exports.