Attractive Opportunities in Agriculture: Steve Yuzpe
Steve Yuzpe joined Sprott Resource Corp. in 2009 as Chief Financial Officer. Sprott Resource Corp., a publically-listed private equity firm, manages a portfolio of investments in the natural resources sector, including a large allocation to agriculture.
“Food production is a very interesting area to be in right now, because the case for higher food prices around the world is very compelling. The need for food security, the effects of rising populations, water scarcity and climate change, and the need for inflation-protected assets all make the set-up for agriculture very compelling right now. There are opportunities in the sector that should offer strong risk-adjusted returns.”
Despite its attractiveness, the ability to enter the agricultural sector is quite restricted to individual and retail investors, says Steve. On a relative basis, very few investment opportunities are publicly available. Those that can enter the space through private investments – such as large investment funds – have a definite advantage by having access to a significantly larger investment universe.
“In addition to the typical long-term supply and demand trends, there are three agro-economic factors that underlie the bull case for agriculture. Firstly, the sector should provide an inflation-protected asset for investors concerned with currency devaluation occurring now. Inflation drives up the costs of all the raw materials involved in food production, processing, storage, transportation, etc. For example, food and energy are over 80% correlated. So if you believe that the prices of these commodities in general and energy specifically could rise, agriculture could provide you with an additional means of protecting against this risk.”
“Another major factor is global climate change. Whether or not the change is man-made or a long-term natural cycle is irrelevant. Over the past two decades, average temperatures are rising and weather conditions have become increasingly volatile, which creates a lot of uncertainty around the productivity of existing farmland. This uncertainty can have a huge impact on crop prices, as evidenced by the devastating droughts in the U.S., Russia, and India in 2012. There seems to have been a dramatic weather event in major crop producing areas in each of the last five years.”
Steve believes governments will continue to implement policies to secure inexpensive food for domestic populations in response to the political upheaval that high food prices can cause. “In 2010, the Russian government imposed export restrictions on wheat. Argentina did the same thing in late 2012 and early 2013, to secure the supply for their constituency.”
Meanwhile, food supply is also threatened by the reduction of existing available farmland through pollution, urbanization, soil degradation, and water scarcity, says Steve. Putting new resources into production could be challenging and costly. “There is available arable land that isn’t producing in Brazil, Russia and Kazakhstan. Most of the land is either of marginal utility, or is located in remote regions, adding transportation to the cost of bringing production to market. In addition, it takes years to convert the land into arable farmland, with heavy input costs for pesticides, fertilizers, etc. So these types of projects aren’t about to bring down the price of food. In fact, they would only be economical in a global environment of food shortages, when it’s better to have high-priced food than no food.”
“In agriculture, you have to take a long-term view. We believe that the global macro-economic picture is on our side in this area. Global populations will continue to grow; the amount of cultivatable farmland per person is being squeezed down. We believe that this create opportunities for our investment portfolio over the long term.”
Steve Yuzpe has 15 years of experience with financial administration management in public and private corporations. Sprott Resource Corp.is a Canadian-based company, the primary purpose of which is to invest and operate natural resource projects. Through acquisitions, joint ventures and other investments,Sprott Resource Corp.seeks to provide its shareholders with exposure to the natural resource sector for the purposes of capital appreciation and real wealth preservation.
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Sprott Inc., a public company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, operates through its wholly-owned direct and indirect subsidiaries, including: Sprott Asset Management LP, an adviser registered with the Ontario Securities Commission; Sprott Private Wealth LP, an investment dealer and member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada; Sprott Global Resource Investments Ltd., a US full service broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPC; Sprott Asset Management USA Inc., an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. We refer to the above entities collectively as “Sprott”.
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