SVS Securities – AGIRICULTURE AND THE WORLD FOOD CRISIS
The world food crisis is a growing problem in the world today. A growing population and dwindling resources are pushing up the prices of soft commodities and exacerbating the whole situation. In 2010, 925 million people went hungry. Poverty is the principle cause of hunger. The rise in soft commodity prices, although it may offer a good opportunity for investors to realise a profit, is making it even more difficult for the worlds poor to find the money to eat. For this reason, speculating on the price of soft commodities is an ethical “grey area”. We’re not suggesting that you be completely altruistic and donate all of your money to charity, but the world is getting smaller and it is about time we began to think of the ethical implications of our investments.
SOFT COMMODITIES AND FARMING:
Soft commodities refer to commodities such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, corn, wheat and fruit which are generally grown rather than mined. There are a number of people suggesting that soft commodities and farming might be a better long-term investment in the current market conditions than other “hard” commodities. In most cases an excess of a commodity or a lack of demand will cause commodity prices to drop. Similarly, if there is a drop in supply or a rise in demand, prices will rise. There are four main factors currently affecting the supply and demand of soft commodities and farmed goods.
1. The global population is rising exponentially. A growing population increases demand for food, soft commodities and farmed goods.
2. Arable land is being lost to urban sprawl. This decreases the quantity of food, soft commodities and farmed goods it is possible to produce and therefore limits supply.
3. Recent movements towards renewable energy have led to an increased demand for biofuel and the crops that are used to produce it.
4. Investors speculating on commodity prices cause sudden peaks and troughs in demand, increasing volatility in the market.
Meera Patel of Hargreaves Lansdown commented “The global population is growing faster than the amount of new farmland available, and, at the same time farmers are under pressure to use less water and fewer chemicals, which is likely to constrain supply even further. The resulting excess of demand over supply is likely to lead to rising prices over the long term.”
This is because, with the exception of speculation from investors, factors affecting the price of farmed commodities are relatively stable. The global population is increasing steadily with estimates from the United Nations suggesting we will require a 70% increase in food production by 2050. This growth in population size is a contributing factor to the loss of arable land. Though there is currently a real push for renewable fuels, the demand on soft commodities for biofuel purposes are more likely to increase steadily than shoot up suddenly.