With the world nearing 7 billion, there are a lot more mouths to feed. Throw in that many in emerging markets are requiring higher-quality diets and you’ve got a squeeze on the global food supply.
Bushels of corn reached their highest prices in nearly three years this week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that corn inventories will fall to levels not seen since 1996.
We’ve witnessed nearly a 100 percent surge in the price of corn over the past year as increased demand has been met with diminishing supply. Dry weather conditions due to La Niña in Argentina and other disruptions have shriveled supply despite a near record amount of acreage being planted. Globally, corn consumption has increased 10 percent over the past five years to reach record levels and stock-to-use ratios for corn suggest we’re currently experiencing the tightest global corn market since the late 1970s, according to Macquarie.
This jump is due to increased corn consumption for ethanol and greater demand for feed grain. The USDA estimates that just under 40 percent of U.S. corn production will be consumed for ethanol, up from 31 percent in 2008-2009. China will likely need to import 5 million tons of corn in 2011 in order to meet the country’s booming need for feed grain. In the U.S., an additional 60 million bushels will be used for feed despite a reduction in livestock, according to the Des Moines Register.
Corn is just one part of the food pyramid that is rising. Around the world, prices for wheat, soybeans, cocoa and other grains have jumped in the last 18 months in conjunction with the global recovery. Prices have jumped because demand outstripped supply.
This chart from Potash Corp. shows that grain production has failed to meet consumption in seven of the past 11 years. This is despite producing a significantly larger amount of grain in 2009 than in 2000. Potash Corp. estimates world grain production declined more than 4 percent in 2010. An extreme drought in Russia chopped grain production in the country by 38 percent and 13 percent in neighboring Ukraine.
These tight supply/demand fundamentals reflect the impact of a growing global population and increasing economic strength in emerging markets, Potash says.
As per capita wealth has grown in other countries, there has been a huge jump in demand for grains. This chart shows the amount of bushels consumed as GDP per capita rises.
Much of the rise is due to people consuming more meat as their fortunes rise. To meet this higher protein diet, more chickens, cows and hogs are fed grains and demand skyrockets. You can see that China and India are still in the very early stages of increased consumption.
We think the agricultural space is ripe with opportunity. With global grain inventories relative to demand at multi-year lows and the rising emerging market middle class showing a healthy appetite for more meat and dairy products, demand for increased crop yields should remain strong.
for The Daily Reckoning
P.S. For reference, none of U.S. Global Investors Funds held any of the securities mentioned in this article as of 12/31/10. Also, for more updates on global investing from me and the U.S. Global Investors team, visit my investment blog, Frank Talk.
Every month, JP Morgan Chase dispatches a researcher to several supermarkets in Virginia. The task – to comparison shop for 31 items. In July, the firm’s personal shopper came back with a stunning report: Wal-Mart had raised its prices 5.8% during the previous month. More significantly, its prices were approaching the levels of competing stores […]
Frank Holmes is chief executive officer and chief investment officer of U.S. Global Investors Inc. The company is a registered investment adviser that manages approximately $2.08 billion in 13 no-load mutual funds and for other advisory clients. A Toronto native, he bought a controlling interest in U.S. Global Investors in 1989, after an accomplished career in Canada's capital markets. His specialized knowledge gives him expertise in resource-based industries and money management. The Global Resources Fund was also Morningstar's top performer among all domestic stock funds in the five-year period ending Dec. 31, 2006.
Ben Bernanke has a blog now (not an April Fool's joke). David Stockman takes "The Bernank" the task, using his first-ever post to refute all of central banking...
Getting into space is getting more complex, and a lot cheaper. A recent launch typifies the new power of private rocketry as well as the ability of competitors like SpaceX and Boeing to cooperate to make the price tag of a launch cheaper. Stephen Petranek has more…
Companies go public to rake in a few billion dollars for themselves and the underwriters. And the suckers-- sorry, investors who gobble up shares when these things come out-- usually end up losers. The stock sinks once the initial euphoria wears off. Then it levels off at a much lower price before maybe rising at a normal pace again.
A money illusion sounds like something a prestidigitator performs by pulling $100 bills from a hat shown to be empty moments before. In fact, money illusion is a longstanding concept in economics that has enormous significance for you if you’re a saver, investor or entrepreneur. Jim Rickards explains...
Traders bid up oil prices this week, based on reports of major escalation of hostilities in Yemen, just south of Saudi Arabia. It’s part of Iran’s long-term strategy to surround the Saudis. Which is why Byron says the Saudis’ primary motivation in crashing oil prices last November was to weaken Iran...