World food prices rose to a near two-year high in January, driven by surges in sugar quotations and export prices for cereals and vegetable oils, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 173.8 points in January, versus a revised 170.2 in December.

The 2.1 percent monthly rise pushed food prices on international markets to their highest since February 2015, and 16.4 percent above their levels in January last year.

Global cereals output is now expected to reach 2.592 billion tons in the 2016-17 season, confirming prospects of a record harvest, FAO said.