Huge investment funds have already poured hundreds of billions of dollars into booming financial markets for commodities like wheat, corn and soybeans.
But a few big private investors are starting to make bolder and longer-term bets that the world’s need for food will greatly increase — by buying farmland, fertilizer, grain elevators and shipping equipment.
One has bought several ethanol plants, Canadian farmland and enough storage space in the Midwest to hold millions of bushels of grain.
Another is buying more than five dozen grain elevators, nearly that many fertilizer distribution outlets and a fleet of barges and ships.
And three institutional investors, including the giant BlackRock fund group in New York, are separately planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in agriculture, chiefly farmland, from sub-Saharan Africa to the English countryside.
“It’s going on big time,” said Brad Cole, president of Cole Partners Asset Management in Chicago, which runs a fund of hedge funds focused on natural resources. “There is considerable interest in what we call ‘owning structure’ — like United States farmland, Argentine farmland, English farmland — wherever the profit picture is improving.”