As the world grows wealthier, demand for meat leads to massive demand for grain feed
The World’s population is now more than 7 billion and continues to grow by 82 million a year. During the last half-century, the total number of people has more than doubled. Between 1960 and 2010, the world population rose from 3 billion to 6.8 billion. In other words, there has been more growth in the last 50 years than the previous 2 million years that humans have existed. Currently the rate of increase is 1.2 percent per year, which means we are on a trajectory to double again in 58 years.
The extreme growth in human population – now counted by an additional billion people every 12 to 13 years — is taxing the Earth and its resources. Some people may be relatively less damaging than others, but none of us is without an ecological footprint. Everybody needs basic resources but almost all of us aspire to utilise significantly more resources than are required by our basic needs. These needs and aspirations are multiplied by a factor of 7 billion affecting the stability of the planet’s ecosphere, states the Population Media Centre.
Food demand and Production
Putting food on the world’s tables is a serious business. The United Nations’ index of global food prices hit a record high recently.There have been riots over rising food prices in Algeria and Tunisia. In Sri Lanka, the army has started buying up vegetables from producers and selling them at low prices to ensure locals can get affordable meals.
And prices in our own shops are reflecting a surge in world demand for essentials ranging from beef to wheat. Beef rose by 20 percent in 2015, according to the latest official inflation figures. Some of this increase in prices reflects short-term shortages after poor harvests and the effect of commodity speculators. But there is also a longer-term trend of rising prices as consumers around the world want better, more protein-rich diets.
Investing in companies that help meet a growing demand for food and farming products could prove both ethical and fertile for investors. It takes 7 lbs of grain to make 1lb of beef and 4 lbs of grain to produce 1 lb of pork. As the middle class in the emerging world gets richer, there is a greater demand for meat and hence for grain and feed. Similarly, higher wealth is boosting demand for agricultural products ranging from cotton to coffee.
One option for investors is to join the speculators and try to profit directly from the growth in commodity prices but this is risky. Many feel following the agricultural theme by investing in shares of agricultural businesses is a better option than the unpredictable and volatile commodity futures markets.
Specialist investment funds are open to investors. These funds invest in companies worldwide that are linked to agriculture such as fertiliser producers and farm machinery manufacturers. Some also invest in firms that are further down the food chain, such as processors and even consumer food companies.
Farmers have to invest in higher-yielding seeds and use more machinery and fertiliser to boost production. One fund has a narrow focus on buying into companies that are directly involved with agriculture. Their fund price has returned an annualised 9.5 percent since 2007.
Some like a broader base, looking to invest “from field to fork”. This means the portfolio can include food processing companies and even some infrastructure investment. This sector has appeal for many as the explosion in the planet’s population continues to challenge the world’s food industry, with demand for most staple foods increasing almost exponentially.
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