The long-term bull

I don’t normally rely on National Geographic magazine for investment advice, but in the June issue the screaming long term bull case for the soft commodities is there in all its glory. During the sixties, new dwarf varieties, irrigation, fertilizer, and heavy duty pesticides tripled crop yields, unleashing a green revolution. But guess what? The world population has doubled from 3.5 to 7 billion since then, eating up surpluses, and is expected to rise to 9 billion by 2050. Now we are running out of water in key areas like the American West and Northern India, droughts are hitting Africa and China, soil is exhausted, and global warming is shriveling yields. Water supplies are so polluted with toxic pesticide residues that rural cancer rates are soaring. Food reserves are now at 20 year lows. Rising emerging market standards of living are consuming more and better food, with Chinese pork production rising 45 percent from 1993 to 2005. The problem is that meat
is an incredibly inefficient calorie transmission mechanism, creating demand for five times more grain than just eating the grain alone. I won’t even mention the strain the politically inspired ethanol and biofuel programs have placed on the system. It is possible that genetic engineering, sustainable farming, and smart irrigation could lead to a second green revolution, but the burden is on scientists to deliver. The net of all of this is that food prices are going up, a lot. Entertain core long positions in corn, wheat, and soybeans on the next dip, as well as the second derivative plays like Agrium (TO), Potash (POT) and Monsanto (MON). You might also look at DB Commodities Tracking Index Fund (DBC). These will all surpass last year’s stratospheric highs at some point.

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