As though weather events and unexpected demand weren’t enough of a threat to the world’s food supply, rampant crop disease and the scaling back of research have become additional factors threatening to drive up food prices and impact related exchange traded funds (ETFs).
At the International Rice Institute, for example, greenhouses are falling into disrepair and offices sit empty. It once employed five entomologists (insect experts). Now there’s just one. The United States is slashing its support for global agriculture research by as much as 75%, which includes the rice institute.
Research includes not only ways to help farmers adopt improved methods, but it also consists of the study of disease and pests like the brown hopper. The bug has become a menace to rice crops. No larger than a gnat, it’s reproducing by the billions in the Philippines, threatening the diets of many poor people, report Keith Bradsher and Andrew Martin for The New York Times.
As wealthy countries continue to cut agriculture support for the poor countries, problems like this will likely only become worse.
In turn, the prices of rice and other cereals may drive higher as some crops are destroyed in East Asia.
The world’s agricultural system may be in need of a makeover, since many government and development agencies lost sight of the need to help poor countries maintain agriculture.
Where is all the money for the higher cost of food these days going? Sure, much of it probably goes to the cost of transporting and producing it. But why aren’t the costs of research and development factored in here as well?
In the meantime, many agriculture ETFs and exchange traded notes (ETNs) could benefit from the global troubles:
- PowerShares DB Agriculture (DBA), up 9.4% year-to-date
- iPath Dow Jones AIG-Agriculture ETN (JJA), up 4% year-to-date
- Elements/Rogers International Commodity Index ETN (RJA), up 1.8% year-to-date
- UBS E-TRACS CMCI Agriculture ETN (UAG), launched on April 4
- Market Vectors Global Agribusiness (MOO), up 8.8% 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.