Changing Chinese diet will bring opportunities: Blake
The inelastic supply of arable land in China is providing investment opportunities, says Barings Asset Management's Jonathan Blake, as Chinese diets westernise.
The manager of the £498m Global Resources and £173.1m Global Agriculture funds, believes the shift in China to a domestic consumer market will bolster soft commodities.
"The Chinese eating habits are changing and there is growing demand on natural resources as the population increasingly buys things such as white goods," he said.
The manager said there had been an increase in demand for agricultural products that had come through feed and fuel.
That increase meant that demand now ran in excess of supply, which would cause agriculture prices to rise, presenting opportunities for investment on the supply side.
"There is little increase in the amount of land available to produce agricultural products," he said.
"We have seen an increase in competition for land availability but we have not seen much improvement. The supply side is inelastic and that is where the investment opportunity is."
He continued: "To bring land up to requirement will take time and investment. Land values will increase and as commodity prices increase it will lift the value of land used to produce agricultural products."
He added that the increase in emerging markets would also offer opportunities as the east looked to the west for the "technology know-how" to grow their own industry.
"If you believe in emerging markets' development then what we are seeing in China and India is following a distinctive trend, and that is diets changing," he said.
"As they eat more protein they will need more feed, as 1 gram of beef requires 8 grams of feed."
He added that the increase in the world's population would also lead to an increase in food demand, with 90 per cent of that coming from emerging markets.
Fuel will also be a driver, according to the manager, as nations look to alternatives to burning fossil fuels.
"It is now a national imperative around the world to secure and diversify sources of energy for their countries," he said.
However, in spite of emerging markets being a theme in the portfolio, the fund retains a high exposure to developed markets.
"Agriculture is still one of the few industries where the western world is more efficient and cost-effective than in emerging markets."
Meanwhile, the manager warned there was risk involved with investing in global resources fund.
"The fund is global and invests in emerging markets, and that brings an additional layer of risk," he said.
"You can't look at resources and think anything other than volatile, and these products are at the adventurous end. They are more volatile than a straightforward global equities fund," he said.