June 26, 2022

Many agriculture shares and exchange-traded funds have surged in current weeks and are buying and selling at or close to all-time highs.istock

Even earlier than Russia invaded Ukraine, costs of many agricultural commodities had been on the rise because of provide shortages and rising demand for meals as economies recuperate from the coronavirus disaster.

The battle between Russia and Ukraine – main world producers of commodities akin to corn, wheat, barley and potash – has despatched costs hovering even greater amid anticipation of even larger provide shortages.

Many agriculture shares and exchange-traded funds have surged in current weeks and are buying and selling at or close to all-time highs. Whereas buyers within the sector are benefitting from the upper costs, cash managers warn shares shall be unstable within the weeks and months to come back.

“The macro atmosphere has modified considerably previously couple of weeks,” says Mike Archibald, vice-president and portfolio supervisor at AGF Investments. “For individuals trying on the area proper now, I’d recommend some stage of warning.”

Mr. Archibald believes the backdrop for agriculture commodities stays sturdy regardless of the unrest in Jap Europe, however doesn’t imagine now is an effective time to purchase many shares within the sector.

In truth, he just lately trimmed a few of his holdings in Saskatoon-based Nutrien Ltd. NTR-T, the world’s largest fertilizer producer, which has seen its share worth rise by about 20 per cent since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“Regardless of what’s occurred within the final couple of weeks, pricing for lots of those commodities is more likely to keep excessive,” he says. “It’s simply that typically shares get somewhat bit forward of themselves. And I believe that’s the scenario we’re in proper now.”

Nutrien interim chief govt officer Ken Seitz stated just lately that the corporate would increase potash manufacturing if it noticed sustained provide issues in Russia and Belarus, the world’s second-and third-largest potash producing nations after Canada.

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“We might most likely see a chronic, extra extended disruption in [potash] provide out of that a part of the world,” Mr. Seitz stated at a BMO Capital Markets investor convention final week, in accordance with a Reuters report.

Exterior of provide disruptions, many buyers imagine a steadily rising inhabitants is an effective purpose to get into agriculture shares long-term: The United Nations initiatives the world’s inhabitants will develop to about 9.7 billion individuals by 2050 from about 7.8 billion immediately. Agriculture firms are anticipated to profit from the elevated meals manufacturing that shall be required to feed the world, together with a rising center class that may spend extra.

Nonetheless, investing consultants word commodities are cyclical and advocate diversification by taking part in completely different elements of the sector, together with producers, retailers and agricultural know-how (agtech) firms.

Christine Poole, chief govt officer and managing director at Toronto-based GlobeInvest Capital Administration Inc., has invested in agriculture shares for her shoppers for years as a long-term play on the rising inhabitants.

Her shoppers owned Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan earlier than it merged with Agrium Inc. in 2018 and have become Nutrien – and held on to it for its diversification throughout the sector, together with its increasing retail division. Nutrien has greater than 2,000 retail areas in seven nations that promote the whole lot from crop vitamins and safety merchandise to digital instruments for farmers.

“The retail facet is extra constant and affords a buffer when nutrient costs are going the opposite manner,” Ms. Poole says, which might occur given the current runup in fertilizer costs because of world political tensions and sanctions disrupting provide.

“We’re not chasing the inventory proper now,” she says. “We now have it in our portfolios, however for brand spanking new shopper cash, we’re sitting on the sidelines to see how this performs out.”

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AGF’s Mr. Archibald factors to world farm tools producer Deere & Co. DE-N as one other option to spend money on the sector. The inventory has almost tripled because the pandemic lows in mid-2020 and is up about 20 per cent because the Russia-Ukraine battle erupted late final month.

“Demand for its merchandise is extraordinarily excessive proper now from the farming neighborhood,” he says.

He notes that Deere is an iconic model within the agriculture sector and geographically diversified, with about 60 per cent of its income coming from North America and the remainder globally.

One other concept for buyers could possibly be Ag Development Worldwide Inc. AFN-T, a grain dealing with, storage and tools firm, which has doubled from its pandemic lows and has risen about 5 per cent previously couple of weeks. Mr. Archibald says the corporate is anticipated to profit from the high-price atmosphere.

“They have an inclination to lag the cycle barely,” he says.

Mr. Archibald explains that the corporate’s enterprise tends to choose up as costs enhance as a result of farmers are rising extra crops and want extra tools and space for storing.

Ag Development tends to be a barely extra unstable inventory than Nutrien, as the corporate is smaller and has extra stability sheet leverage, he says.

“Nonetheless, the corporate is producing extra free money move and may be capable of pay it down over time,” he provides.

Buyers can also be inquisitive about smaller firms within the rising agtech area, akin to CubicFarm Methods Corp. CUB-T, which makes indoor farming applied sciences.

“It’s extra of a know-how play,” Mr. Archibald says, but in addition warns that it’s speculative as a small firm in an rising area.

The corporate additionally has bold development plans at a time when most meals producers are in search of methods to spice up manufacturing amid a shrinking land base.

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Disruption of Russia and Ukraine’s world wheat exports, mixed with poor harvests in North America, have buyers exploring broad agriculture publicity, together with agtech, straight and thru ETFs, says Mark Yamada, chief govt officer of PUR Investing Inc. in Toronto.

“ETFs present well-diversified publicity to conventional and new concepts,” he says.

He factors to the iShares World Agriculture Index ETF COW-T, a widely known TSX-traded product that features a mixture of commodities, fertilizers, chemical compounds, equipment, packaged meals and meats. High holdings embrace fertilizer firm Mosaic Inc., meals processing firm Archer Daniels Midland Co. and agricultural commodity buying and selling and processing firm Bunge Ltd. The ETF is buying and selling at file highs amid the Russia-Ukraine disaster.

Different examples he cites embrace the iShares MSCI Agriculture Producers ETF VEGI-A, with prime holdings Deere and Nutrien, and the VanEck Agribusiness ETF MOO-A, with holdings akin to animal drugs firm Zoetis Inc., veterinary services and products firm Idexx Laboratories Inc. in addition to different conventional agriculture sector names. Each VEGI and MOO are additionally buying and selling at file highs.

For these inquisitive about agtech, Mr. Yamada notes there’s the World X AgTech and Meals Innovation ETF KROP-Q, which affords publicity to firms starting from chemical and seed supplier Corteva Inc. to plant-based protein firms Past Meat Inc. and Oatly Group AB. The ETF is down about 20 per cent because it began buying and selling in July, dropping alongside different know-how names as many buyers transfer away from development shares.

Mr. Yamada says the business will at all times be cyclical, “punctuated by durations of maximum disruption,” however he believes agriculture – whether or not shares or ETFs – needs to be in most buyers’ portfolios to offset unstable markets.

“Placing commodities in a portfolio at all times is sensible as a result of they’re typically uncorrelated with the remainder of the market,” he says.