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“The bull market in commodities has a good bit more life,” says O.A. Cleveland, Jr., Extension agricultural professor emeritus at Mississippi State University. “It could last another five years or more. But I don’t see inflation as a problem.” He says “a lack of money supply available to consumers” will hold inflation in line.
People will keep eating
“In a good economy, commodities will make money; in a bad economy, the government prints money and commodities make money. In either scenario, people will continue to eat.”
Since 1997, soybeans, corn, and wheat prices have risen 200 percent to 275 percent, Cleveland notes. Cotton “has enjoyed the most fantastic run in history,” up 300 percent over the last year, and 100 percent in the past six months; silver is up 600 percent over the last five years, gold continues to reach new highs, and oil is again over $100 per barrel.
“Delta farm land that was $2,000 per acre six years ago is $4,000 to $4,500 today, and none is for sale.”
While the big runup in commodity prices has occurred since 2007, the seeds for it were sown in 1970, he says, with Russia’s political decision to upgrade the diets of its people.
“Over a single weekend, they purchased much of the U.S. wheat crop, immediately sending the market limit up, a trend that continued for several days. The wheat that had been $2.50 jumped well above $6.”
In time, the supply-demand situation was brought back into balance and prices stabilized.
But in 2000, Cleveland says, both China and India made political decisions to update the diets of their people, the Chinese opting to do it with pork, the Indians with poultry.
“These two countries are feeding more than 2billion people — 20 times more than Russia when it bought up U.S. wheat. And all those animals need grain.
“China’s hog industry is four to five times larger than ours; they are the world’s largest importer of soybeans, corn, and cotton, and have the world’s largest textile industry.”
Toss into this mix the U.S. decision in 2002 to use corn as a feedstock for ethanol and to subsidize ethanol production, major oilseed and wheat crop failures in 2007 in Europe and Australia, and “demand for oilseeds, feed grains, and food grains had jumped well above supplies.”