Food prices have skyrocketed over the last few years, and even more so in the last few months, says Paul Krugman for the New York Times. Even Americans who are doing relatively well are grumbling at the swiftly rising grocery bills. But in poor, developing countries, it’s devastating. Food often makes up half of a family’s spending.
Countries that supply food, such as Ukraine and Argentina, have been limiting their exports to protect their own consumers. This has led to protests from farmers.
How did this happen?
1) Emerging markets. For the first time, a growing number of people around the world in previously poor countries can afford to start eating the way Westerners do, and beef isn’t cheap to produce.
2) Oil prices. Modern farming uses a lot of it, which drives up the cost of agriculture.
3) Bad weather. Australia, in particular, has been experiencing a massive drought. It’s the world’s second-largest wheat exporter, and the lack of rain has cut into their production.
Can anything be done? Krugman isn’t so sure. Expensive food and expensive oil may very well remain a fact of life.
Agriculture ETFs are a way to gain exposure to this sector if the prices do continue to rise as they have been. Among the many available:
- ELEMENTS Linked to the MLCX Grains Index (GRU), down 1.4% since Feb. 15 inception
- iPath Dow Jones AIG-Agriculture ETN (JJA), up 7.6% year-to-date
- PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund (DBA), up 16.4% year-to-date
- Market Vectors Global Agribusiness (MOO), up 0.5% year-to-date
The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.