Agricultural commodities may be one of the last options left on the menu for investors swaying from the global stock and bond market crash.
While the war in Ukraine, supply disruptions and rising oil and fertilizer prices were the initial impetus for rising grain prices, protectionism is emerging as a new threat. And if inflation in Asia is already rising, such measures could eventually exacerbate pressure on world food prices, according to Sonal Varma, an analyst at Nomura. In a tough market for almost all types of assets, staple foods such as wheat and corn, as well as former companies that processed and traded them such as Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge, could prove to be relatively safe havens at least for as long as the war lasted.
Last week, India banned wheat exports, saying the country’s food security was under threat. The intense heat has damaged wheat yields across the country. Although India is not a major exporter of wheat, it is the second largest producer of wheat in the world and has accumulated one of the world’s largest stocks as of earlier this year. India’s move has followed similar bans in recent weeks: Indonesia has temporarily suspended palm oil exports in April, and Serbia and Kazakhstan have imposed grain quotas. Indonesia alone is responsible for about 53% of world exports of palm oil, according to analytical company Thomas Elder Markets, based in Melbourne. And while the United Nations forecast for grain stocks at the end of the 2022 season in May rose slightly compared to April, a significant portion of such stocks are now stuck in places like Ukraine and India.
Prices for wheat, corn, soybeans, canola and palm oil have risen since Russia invaded Ukraine, and since early 2022, prices for wheat and corn have risen by about 60% and 30% respectively. Moreover, unlike some energy commodities, such as oil, it requires destruction. from high prices it is less likely to be a problem, especially in low- and middle-income countries, which account for the bulk of global food demand. It’s one thing to take a bus, not to go to save. Eating less is a completely different game of ball. Andrew Whitelow, a grain analyst at Thomas Elder, said he believes agricultural prices will remain strong until the end of the year and likely next.
Before the war, the world began to count on cheap and rich supplies of wheat from Russia and, in particular, Ukraine. According to the US Department of Agriculture, these two countries account for 29% of world wheat exports. According to Thomas Elder, Ukraine alone accounted for 15% of barley, 50% of sunflower oil and 14% of corn and rapeseed in world trade.
With food inflation poking a hole in consumer pockets, especially in low-income families, governments are beginning to care about what they have. For investors scorched by volatile stock and currency markets, agricultural commodities can help fill the gap, except for the unexpected resolution of the turmoil that worries Ukraine.
Write Megha Mandavia at firstname.lastname@example.org
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