Argentina set for wheat windfall
Not everyone is upset about the 50 percent surge in wheat prices over the past month.
Wheat’s rise to 2-year highs was caused first by heavy rains in Canada and now by a Russian export ban that was triggered by its worst drought in decades. There are floods in Pakistan, another major wheat grower. But while the wheat market shenanigans are triggering much hand-wringing across developing nations, Argentina, one of the world’s top seven wheat exporters, may be set for a windfall.
Farmers there are increasing wheat plantings, the Buenos Aires Grains Exchange says. The South American country is expected to export around 8 million tonnes of wheat in the 2010-2011 year. With wheat futures on the Chicago Board of Trade at around $8 a bushel, a very simple calculation shows export revenues are going to very significant.
Investors are taking note.
RBC analysts are advising their clients to buy the Argentine peso against the dollar. The peso is trading at 3.933 at present but currency forwards markets are pricing in a 2.1 percent fall in the peso’s value over the next three months. RBC reckons they could be wrong and sees “very strong grain commodity prices supporting higher FX export inflows.” That it hopes, will keep the peso stable to the dollar. Buying the peso now would mean a 2.1 percent gain over 3 months or almost 9 percent in annual terms.
Nick Chamie, strategist at RBC, now expects Argentina’s economy to grow 6.5 percent this year — more than the 5 percent he originally predicted. He points out the stronger wheat price has had a knock-on effect on other grains — prices for soy and corn, of which Argentina is a top exporter, are up 11-13 percent over past month.
Arentina has a bad reputation with investors — it defaulted on $100 billion in debt in 2002, a record for any sovereign. It only recently finished restructuring defaulted debt and is hoping to come back to bond markets soon. The grain price bonanza could make its job easier. Strong grain export revenues have already boosted central bank coffers to a record $51 billion.
Chamie thinks Buenos Aires could possibly issue a bond soon, global markets permitting. Its brimming coffers mean it can hold out for a yield closer to 9 percent rather than the 10 percent it was targeting earlier this year he reckons, adding: “Important will be how long the wheat price surge lasts .”