Friday, March 2, 2012

Absolute Return Partners on Investing in Farmland

Gerald Grosvenor might beg to differ with the answer to the question in the first sentence below.
Although his 300 acres got hit hard in the downturn it has come back strongly.

Half the Mayfair District, most of Belgravia, and Grosvenor Square where the U.S. Embassy is one of his many lessees make a nice hedge for the 4500 acre farm.

Throw  in the 17 acres in Silicon Valley and the 1200 acre Annacis Island off of Vancouver, B.C. and you've got a bit of diversification.

From Credit Writedowns:

The Protein Bomb
Question for you: Which distinctly British asset class has offered the most attractive returns over the past decade? Central London property? Not even close, even if it has done rather well. UK farmland is the answer, having more than tripled in value over a decade which will otherwise not be remembered for its outsized returns (see story here). The rise in farmland values is not only a British phenomenon. All over Northern Europe and North America farmland values have responded well to higher commodity prices. Last year alone, farmland prices in the US Midwest appreciated by 22% on average (details here).

Now, if ‘rental income’ on farm land is going up as measured by higher crop prices, it is only logical that the value of the land appreciates, similar to the dynamics in the commercial property sector. However, I have long been puzzled by the fact that you find virtually no exposure to farm land in institutional portfolios despite the supremely attractive yields on offer when compared to commercial property. Pension funds happily buy office buildings, earning a return of 4-5%, maybe 6%, yet few have ventured into farmland where yields can be as high as 10% if the farm is big enough and run professionally enough.

In this month’s Absolute Return Letter we will take a closer look at agriculture. Should you be exposed to agriculture in the first place? Is it too late to buy farm land? Are there other and better ways to be exposed to agriculture? These and other questions I will address in the following. 

Calories versus proteins
Let’s begin with some numbers to set the stage[1]. There are approximately 7 billion people in the world today. FAO (the food and agriculture organisation of the United Nations) expects that number to grow to approximately 8.3 billion by 2030. The average person consumes 2,780 kcal per day but the average masks a significant gap between the developed and the developing world. Whereas people in developed countries consume 3,420 kcal per day, people in developing countries consume no more than 2,630 kcal per day. By 2030 the average calorie intake is expected to have risen to 3,050 kcal per day, driven primarily by rising living standards in developing countries....MORE