With job openings hitting their lowest levels in six months,
the focus has shifted to other economic indicators to gauge the
overall improvement of the U.S. economy amid speculations of
withdrawal of the economic stimulus, or QE3 tapering.
The U.S. agriculture sector is one bright spot in the economy
that has caught the eye of investors with expectations of a
strong farm income, record farm wealth and a healthy farm
USDA's ERS (U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research
Services) anticipates national net farm income to reach a record
level of $120.6 billion in 2013, despite a severe and extensive
drought in 2012. Farm asset values, which mirror farm investors'
and lenders' long-term profitability expectations, are projected
to rise 7% year over year to a record $3,010 billion in 2013.
Consequently, the farm debt-to-asset ratio is expected to fall
to 10.2%, its lowest level since 1960. In addition, total farm
debt is forecasted to rise to $308 billion in 2013, while farm
equity is projected to reach a record high of $2,702 billion.
The annual U.S. net farm income is arguably the most important
metric of the farm sector's well-being, reflecting the aggregate
economic activity encompassing production processes, input
expenses and marketing conditions of the sector. Together with
the measure of the national debt-to-asset ratio, it offers a key
indicator of the economic well-being of the farm economy - one of
the foundation pillars of macroeconomic growth.
Inherent Sector Strength
The success of the U.S. agricultural sector primarily hinges upon
strong demand for agricultural exports, which have risen
significantly over the years. Agricultural exports aggregated
$135.8 billion in 2012 and are projected to reach $142 billion in
2013. Trade surplus in agricultural goods reached $32.4 billion
Rising incomes, a growing middle class in emerging countries,
evolving dietary patterns and demand for organic food items are
increasingly making the developing countries net importers of
farm products, thereby benefiting developed countries like the
Domestic consumers are also reaping the benefits from a highly
efficient agricultural sector. Primarily, with their increasing
real incomes, most Americans have changed their food choices to
include higher value foods like better cuts of meat, variety of
fruits and vegetables, and organic and specialty food items.
Organic farming is currently one of the fastest-growing
sectors in agriculture, with double-digit growth in sales.
Technological innovations and widespread adoption of a series of
biological, chemical, mechanical and organizational advances have
enabled farmers to better adjust feed mixes and climate controls
to meet the needs of crops and livestock to improve total
3 Top Agricultural Picks
Amid such strong industry fundamentals, there are certain
agricultural stocks with attractive valuation metrics backed by a
solid Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). Let's take a closer look at
these companies that appear to be well positioned to benefit from
the solid sector dynamics.
Amira Nature Foods Ltd.
): Based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, the company
processes, distributes, and markets packaged specialty rice and
value-added meals, ready-to-eat snacks, edible oils and dairy
products for retailers under the Amira brand name. At the same
time, the company sells maize, sugar, soybean meal, onion,
potato, and millet for trading firms across the globe.
Amira has a forward P/E and long-term earnings expectation of
10.27x and 46.00%, respectively. The stock has retained the Zacks
Rank #1 (Strong Buy) over a fortnight and had an earnings
surprise of 110% in the last reported quarter.
AMIRA NATURE FD (ANFI): Free Stock Analysis
CALAVO GROWERS (CVGW): Free Stock Analysis
FRESH DEL MONTE (FDP): Free Stock Analysis
To read this article on Zacks.com click here.
Calavo Growers Inc.
): The company trades at a forward P/E of 24.73x and has a
long-term earnings expectation of 13.00%. Headquartered in Santa
Paula, CA, Calavo markets and distributes avocados, prepared
avocados, and other perishable foods to food distributors,
produce wholesalers, supermarkets, convenience stores and
restaurants worldwide. The stock was upgraded to a Zacks Rank #2
(Buy) on Sep 7, before rising to its current Zacks Rank #1
Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.
): Based in George Town, Cayman Islands, the company has a
forward P/E of 14.19x. The company produces, markets and
distributes fresh-cut fruit and vegetables worldwide in addition
to the manufacturing of plastic and box products including bins,
trays, bags, and boxes. The stock has retained its Zacks Rank #1
(Strong Buy) since Aug 31.
The U.S. agriculture sector had performed relatively better than
other sectors in the economy during the Great Recession and its
immediate aftermath. A vibrant U.S. agricultural sector is
essential for the overall growth and prosperity of the nation and
these high-potential stocks with strong fundamentals pledge a
healthy ROI during this uncertain time.