Food Plays: Go To The Source

By Investopedia Staff | January 31, 2012 AAA

It is no secret that people still have to eat during the worst economic times. Aside from grocery stores, there are many other excellent investment considerations for investors.

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More Mouths to Feed
The population currently grows by 75 million each year. That's 75 million additional mouths to feed. That's growth that the world will have to absorb year in and year out. Sure, a weak economy may delay a couple from having a child, but it won't prevent it.

More so, despite the recession, over time, people - especially in the emerging markets - are going to have a higher standard of living which means a shift to a more protein-based diet. When you are forced to eat grains for all of your life, as your standard of living improves so does the quantity of meat you can afford to consume.

Back on the Farm
One way to play this trend is Argentina farming giant Cresud (Nasdaq:CRESY). Cresud is one of the largest farming companies in Latin America. It produces things like corn, wheat, soybeans, milk and cattle. In addition to Argentina, Cresud has been gobbling up farm land in Brazil as well as other South American regions.

The hidden value in Cresud is simply the assets - such quality farmland is becoming more and more difficult to find in the world. Shares at $12.73 per ADS, represents a market value of $630 million. Stated book value, is approximately $10 per share. However, when you realize that the land on the balance sheet is being valued at cost - and in some cases CRESY bought this land years ago - you are getting first class assets for a lot less than they are worth. (For further reading, check out American Depositary Receipt Basics.)

As a bonus, Cresud owns 55% of Argentinean real estate developer IRSA (NYSE:IRS), which currently has a market cap of some $586 million.

Invest in the Source
While appetites don't go away during a recession, the best way to benefit from it is by investing in the methods of production. Investing in grocers like Kroger (NYSE:KR) or Winn Dixie (Nasdaq:WINN) is the absolute wrong way to do it. Grocers are always under threat of competition from the several other grocers in the area and margins are razor thin.

The Bottom Line
During a recession, it's best to look to the source and not the retailers. So, invest in the cattle farmer and crop grower, where all grocers have to go.

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