Overseas Farmers Gain from NAFTA’s Pain
After threatening to extricate the United States from the NAFTA trade deal with Canada and Mexico, which removed tariffs and boosted trade between the three countries, President Trump has now committed to renegotiating the deal.
However, in the process of those talks, it’s likely that at least Mexico will be opening its own doors with other countries. That spells investment opportunities in agricultural and food-related companies; we examine two well-positioned plays now.
Two years ago, roughly 13% of American-grown corn was exported and 23% of that went to Mexico. In fact, nearly 98% of the corn consumed in Mexico comes from the U.S. That corn trade is worth nearly $3 billion to American producers, while Mexico also bought $1.5 billion worth of American soybeans, and more than $1 billion worth of pork and dairy products. Mexico isn’t thrilled that it’s so dependent on U.S. food products.
Now, as NAFTA gets re-negotiated and America increasingly resembles a rival rather than partner, Mexico is rethinking its southern trade strategy, with trade talks reportedly underway with Brazil and Argentina. This new political reality could be a boon for two companies in particular.
Brazil-based BRF (NYSE: BRFS) is a major producer of poultry and pork, with annual sales of more than $30 billion. The company’s shares have taken a hit lately after police accused it and another major Brazilian meat packer of paying bribes and operating unsanitary facilities. Details are still scarce and it looks as if the allegations might have been politically motivated. Regardless, a number of countries have suspended meat imports from Brazil until they have been reassured about their safety.
At any rate, if Mexico reduces trade barriers to foodstuffs from Brazil, BRF would be one of the greatest beneficiaries. That’s especially true since Latin American countries other than Brazil only account for about 14% of the company’s revenue, mostly because of unfavorable trade conditions. Despite the recent scandal, BRF’s shares have a lot of upside potential as the future of trade in the Western Hemisphere remains up in the air.
Another potential winner, which isn’t impacted by the recent upheaval in Brazil, is Adecoagro (NYSE: AGRO). Headquartered in Luxemburg, this company owns hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farmland in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and produces corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, rice and dairy products.
A smaller company with a market cap of only $1.3 billion and about $870 million in sales last year, Adecoagro’s management has already said that it would be eager to work with the Mexicans, particularly if Brazilian and Argentine products get the same favorable treatment as American ones. Considering that Mexico must be questioning the wisdom of being so dependent on U.S. agricultural products, that seems likely.
While American farmers have to be worried about how the NAFTA renegotiation will play out, watchful investors can still profit from this hemispheric trade realignment.