ROME - The United Nations food agency's world price index was largely stable in September, as declines in the indices for vegetable oils, dairy and meat offset a surge in sugar and maize prices.

The Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 121.5 points last month against a revised 121.6 for July, the agency said on Friday.

The August reading was initially given as 121.4.

The September figure was 10.7% down year-on-year and 24% below an all-time high reached in March 2022 in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

FAO's cereal index rose 1.0% from the previous month, with maize prices surging 7%, pushed up by strong demand for Brazilian supplies, slower selling in Argentina and increased barge freight rates in the United States.

International wheat prices dropped 1.6%, thanks to strong supplies and good production prospects in Russia. Rice, which had rocketed almost 10% in August, dipped 0.5% last month amid low import demand, FAO said.

The sugar index jumped 9.8% from August, hitting its highest level since November 2010 amid growing concerns over a tighter global supply outlook in the upcoming season, tied to worries about the impact of the El Nino weather pattern on production.

Vegetable oil prices fell 3.9%, while dairy prices dropped 2.3% -- the ninth successive monthly fall, as lacklustre global import demand and ample stocks in leading producing regions continued to weigh on the sector. Meat prices dipped 1.0%.

In a separate report on cereal supply and demand, the FAO forecast world cereal production this year at 2.819 billion tonnes, up slightly from a previous estimate of 2.815 billion and some 0.9% higher than 2022 levels, the FAO said.

The higher forecast was almost entirely driven by more positive yield estimates for Russia and Ukraine, owing to continued favourable weather conditions, the FAO said.

The U.N. agency said its cereal supply and demand brief pegged global wheat output at 785 million tonnes, coarse grain production at 1.511 billion tonnes, up 2.7% from 2022, and world rice output at 523.1 million tonnes.

(Editing by Crispian Balmer)