NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Food prices have spiked to their highest levels since 1990, driven by shifts in the dollar index and rising oil prices. The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) World Food Price Index averaged 232 points in April 2011, 36% above the April 2010 reading, and rose marginally above 231points recorded in March 2011.

The FAO Meat Price Index, although at a record level, remained stable at 173 points in April 2011 as compared to a revised estimate of 172 points in March 2011. The April FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 265 points, up 5.5% from March and 71% from the year-ago month.

Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director General of FAO, commented that the weak trend in world food prices has started to reverse and prices are set to revive on the concern of winter crops in China and the U.S. He further added that with demand escalating, the likelihood of prices returning to normal levels largely depends on production increases in 2011 and replenishment of grain reserves in the new season. The FAO estimates that by 2050, grain output has to rise 50% and meat output has to double to meet growing demand.

In this scenario, the following food stocks seem attractive with buy ratings ranging from 12% to 32% with a mean upside of 19%, according to analysts polled by Bloomberg.

5. Dole Food ( DOLE) is a producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit and vegetables and a leading producer of organic bananas. Dole markets a line of packaged and frozen fruits, and is a produce industry leader in nutrition education and research.

The company announced its first-quarter results on May 2, 2011, reporting improved results in all the three segments with 25% increase in its EBITDA to $106 million from $85 million in the prior year quarter. The company's fresh fruits segment benefited with 55% higher sales, due to improved market conditions in Europe and Asia, and better pricing in European operations due to their restructuring plan.

For the first quarter, net revenue increased 5% to $1.17 billion from $1.12 billion in the year-ago period. Comparable income from continuing operations for the first quarter of 2011 was $45 million, or 51 cents per share, compared to $15 million, or 17 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2010.

The company recently launched a product, FRUIT BOWLS, for its health-conscious customers, which received overwhelming market response. The company expects to improve results in 2011 over 2010.

Of the nine analysts covering the stock, 67% recommend a hold while the rest rate a buy on it. There are no sell ratings on the stock. Analysts polled by Bloomberg project 12.3% upside to $15.8 in value from current levels.

4. Tyson Foods ( TSN) engages in the production, distribution and marketing of chicken, beef, pork, prepared foods and related products.

For the second quarter, analysts polled by Bloomberg estimate a 9% increase in net revenue to $7.5 billion from $6.9 billion in the year-ago quarter. Earnings per share are seen at 44 cents for the quarter. Meanwhile, Jefferies estimates pork margins to expand by 360 basis points during the second quarter. Also, it forecasts favorable feed contracts to offset the pressure on chicken industry. Tyson is scheduled to release its second quarter 2011 earnings on May 9, 2011.

For 2011, the company projects revenue at $31 billion. In addition, production is seen increasing slightly, however not outpacing the estimated export growth. Meanwhile Bloomberg estimates earnings per share for full year 2011 at $2.11.

Of the 17 analysts covering the stock, 59% recommend a buy while 41% rate a hold. There are no sell ratings on the stock. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the share value at $22.18 with an upside of 15.4%.

3. Smithfield Foods ( SFD), along with subsidiaries, produces and markets a range of fresh meat and packaged meat products in the domestic and international markets.

Smithfield Foods maintains a positive outlook for fiscal year 2011 and expects to report $5.22 billion revenue with $1.66 earnings per share. For the fourth quarter 2011, analysts polled by Bloomberg estimate earnings per share to come in at 71 cents as compared to 18 cents recorded in the year ago period. Meanwhile, revenue is forecasted at $3.1 billion as compared to $2.9 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Going forward, the company plans to increase its stake in the Spanish firm Compofrio Food Group from the existing 37% to 50% of $715 million. The acquisition would give Smithfield a controlling stake in the Compofrio Group, which recorded total revenue of $2.6 billion in 2010, secure its position as a leading global packaged meats company, and drive sales through innovation and marketing of value-added products.

The company recently sold its Dalhart hog production facility for $33 million, in a bid to shed non-core assets and reduce its exposure to the commodity business.

Of the 17 analysts covering the stock, 59% a hold, whereas the rest rate a buy on it. The stock has no sell ratings. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the stock to gain 17.6% upside to $26 in value from current levels.

2. Corn Products International ( CPO), provides ingredient solutions to the food, beverage, brewing and pharmaceutical industries, as well as several other industries worldwide. The company produces ingredients that provide valuable solutions to customers in nearly 50 countries. It derives its products primarily from processing corn and other starch-rich materials such as tapioca.

For first quarter 2011, Corn Products reported 56% increase in net sales to $1.46 billion. Net income rose 127% to $176 million, or $1.28 per share, from $75 million in the year-ago quarter, attributable to the acquisition of National Starch food division in the previous year. While gross profit jumped 109% during the quarter, operating income soared 217% from the year-ago quarter.

For full year 2011, the company expects net sales to surpass the $6 million mark. It also expects capital spending to range between $280 and $300 million. As part of its strategy to gain traction in emerging economies, Corn Products plans to invest in Brazil and Argentina.

Of the nine analysts covering the stock, 56% recommended a buy while the remaining suggest a hold. The stock has no sell ratings. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the stock to gain 19.2% to $63.87 in value from current levels.

5. Chiquita Brands ( CQB) is an international marketer and distributor of high-quality fresh and value-added food products -- from energy-rich bananas and other fruits to nutritious blends of convenient green salads. The company markets its products under the Chiquita and Fresh Express premium brands and other related trademarks

For the first quarter of 2011, Chiquita Brands reported net income of $24 million with 52 cents earnings per share as compared to a loss of $9 million, or 20 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Overall sales increased by 2% to $824 million. Banana sales rose 13% to $539 million. Strong demand in the stable European markets improved the company's performance during the quarter.

For full year 2011, the company expects a 3% rise in net sales with continued significant profits on banana sales in its core markets. The company estimates capital expenditure to range between $70 and $75 million in 2011, compared to $66 million in 2010. The company also expects full-year operating profits to improve and thereby raise its overall profitability in full year 2011.

Chiquita Brands is focusing on strengthening its long-term competitive position in salads by building on consumer loyalty and preference for its branded products through innovations such as the Fresh Rinse food safety and quality technology. The company expects continued progress in its profitability in its joint venture with Danone, which should contribute further to enhanced income.

Of the five analysts covering the stock, 60% recommend a buy, whereas 40% rate a hold. The stock has no sell ratings. Analysts polled by Bloomberg expect the stock to gain 31.7% to $20 in value form current levels.

>>To see these stocks in action, visit the 5 Food Stocks to Whet Investor Appetite portfolio on Stockpickr.

If you liked this article you might like

NASCAR's Danica Patrick Announces Exit from Stewart-Haas Racing

NASCAR's Danica Patrick Announces Exit from Stewart-Haas Racing

An Activist Could Push 'Other Berkshire Hathaway' To Sell Beef Unit

An Activist Could Push 'Other Berkshire Hathaway' To Sell Beef Unit

China Moves on Another Front, the Bid for Micron

China Moves on Another Front, the Bid for Micron

Identity Swap for Smithfield's New Chinese Boss

Identity Swap for Smithfield's New Chinese Boss

The Deal: No CFIUS Strings Attached to Smithfield Deal

The Deal: No CFIUS Strings Attached to Smithfield Deal