Agriculture related stocks have declined alongside commodities and the rest of the market in recent trading, but the long-term reality for share prices of many of these companies is not dependent on the daily rise and fall of the indexes. The success of agriculture stocks is, at least in part, tied to demographic realities. Not all are created equal, but the fact of the matter is that the population is growing exponentially and that means greater demand for food. An emerging middle class in nations like China and India are integrating more meat into their diets. In turn, additional corn, wheat and soybeans need to be produced to maintain livestock and to be distributed in their own right. Meeting demand and maximizing profits means farmers must increase their yields. That means newer and better machinery, richer fertilizer and more of it. Below are two companies that have seen a direct correlation to this in their earnings and are likely to continue to experience growth.
The Mosaic Company (NYSE: MOS)
A producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients for the international agriculture industry, Mosaic has seen increased demands for its products that shows no signs of retreat. The dual segmented company produces phosphate-based animal feed and sells potash, principally as fertilizer. During the latest quarter of this year, the company reported revenue of 2.2 billion, up 28 percent from $1.7 billion in the same quarter a year earlier. The earnings are indicative of a trend of consistently higher sales prices year-over-year. Pricier potash and solid free cash flow could be interpreted as indicators that the 2011 calendar year will see strong earnings growth. JP Morgan recently upgraded the stock from neutral to overweight. Net income reached $542.1 million or $1.21 per shares last quarter up from $222.6 million, or 50 cents per share in third-quarter 2010.
It’s difficult to assess if these steep increases in potash pricing and revenue will continue but demographic indicators would signal that is the case. Mosaic is positioning itself for that future by increasing potash production levels.
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (NYSE: POT)
Potash, an integrated fertilizer and feed products company, has also seen tremendous year-over year growth alongside the heightened demand for both harvest yield and beef. The company owns and operates five potash mines in Saskatchewan and one in New Brunswick.
For the first quarter of 2011, Potash reported record earnings of $0.84 per share or $732 million, 71 percent above the $0.49 per share or $444 million earned in the same period last year. Strong demand and improved prices for all three nutrients resulted in record first-quarter gross margin of $1.1 billion, significantly exceeding the $729 million earned in last year's first quarter. Like mosaic, the demand for feed and fertilizer is not expected to cool in the coming quarters.
Corn prices are up and Potash utilized in corn crop production is proven to help increase yields. Seeding is especially late this year and many farmers are worried it will weaken harvests. The use of Potash would be some degree of insurance against that, meaning farmers may be more willing to pay for it. Additionally, the prevalence of biofuel and bioplastics, both of which can be corn derived is likely to have a continued positive impact on stock pricing and earnings.
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