The worst flooding in the Midwest in at least the past 15 years is causing corn and soybean prices to surge. In just the past three weeks, corn futures are up a whopping 28 percent, and soybean futures are 22 percent higher.
Wheat and sugar prices are also on the rise. Wheat futures are up on fears that high corn prices will force livestock producers to use more wheat as animal feed. Sugar futures are rising as a result of harvest delays in Brazil and on speculation that record corn prices may increase the demand for ethanol made from sugar cane.
While the floods are the major catalyst for higher prices — the U.S. is the world’s biggest grower of corn and soybeans — there is a long-term bullish trend developing in food prices. In other words, this may be just the beginning of rising food prices over the next several years, even decades.
Food demand in China, India, and other emerging nations is surging. Unprecedented economic growth in those countries is leading consumers to significantly improve their diets by eating more meats and vegetables. In fact, the number one priority of most consumers in the world’s emerging economies is to improve their diets.
As a country’s economy expands and the incomes of its citizens rise, those citizens tend to spend a larger portion of their income on better food products. For example, consumers in the world’s developed countries such as the U.S., Canada, and Japan spend only about 10 percent of every new dollar of income on food. In contrast, China’s consumers — which account for 20 percent of the world’s population — spend a third of every new dollar of income on food.
China’s soybean imports quadrupled during the five-year period from 2002 to 2007. The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute projects that China’s soybean imports will roughly double in the next ten years.
China’s demand for corn has also risen significantly in the past few years and is expected to increase at a rapid rate in the years ahead. In fact, industry experts expect China’s corn imports to grow fourfold over the next ten years.
Meanwhile, the use of corn, sugar and other grains for fuel alternatives has led to a big increase in the demand for raw foodstuffs. Regardless of the long-term viability for grains as a substitute for gasoline, the shorter-term use of bio-fuels is likely to rise significantly over the next few years.
On the supply side, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it expects U.S. corn supplies to decline by 45 percent next year, with the U.S. corn crop falling to the lowest level in more than 10 years. Global corn inventories are expected to drop to the lowest level in 24 years, as a result of severe droughts.
The USDA also expects to see significant declines in the nation’s soybean crop. And it is projecting inventories of wheat to fall over the next six months to the second-lowest level since 1978.
The floods in the Midwest are merely a symptom of what is to come for food prices. Swelling demand and shrinking supplies will put food prices on a tenuous platform — with any unforeseen blip in food production sending prices higher.
However, there is a way to profit from rising food prices. You don’t have to suffer through higher grocery and restaurant bills. There is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that stands to benefit from the ongoing increase in raw food costs. Click here now for the name of that ETF.
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