When Dow Chemical and DuPont announced its megamerger two weeks ago, Jim Cramer loved the deal. But as much as he loved that deal, he does not want investors to forget that the entire agriculture industry has been in a lot of pain lately.
It was not long ago that Wall Street used to love this group, thanks to the “feed the world” thesis. This is a theory that the global population was growing and transportation infrastructure was improving, thus there would be higher demand for food and everything else that is needed to keep livestock healthy and grow crops.
“The ag cohort was supposed to become a secular growth story where the stocks could rise slowly and steadily. Instead, the group has become toxic, as the feed the world thesis has meant starvation for your portfolio,” the “Mad Money” host said.
What the heck went wrong?
The first issue that Cramer found was the total collapse in crop prices. Corn peaked at $5 a bushel in the summer of 2014, and then plummeted. Corn has not been able to mount a sustained rally since that time, and now trades at $3.75 a bushel. Wheat and soybeans have also fallen off a cliff in pricing.
These declines have translated into massive declines for agriculture stocks, as farmers have very little incentive to pay up for fertilizer, equipment or more expensive seeds if they know they will make less on produce. Cramer thinks this is why fertilizer companies like Mosaic andPotash are down 37 percent for the year.
In its latest quarter, Potash noted that many buyers are moving cautiously both because of a struggling global economy and the devaluation of currencies worldwide, especially in emerging markets. Additionally, nitrogen is beginning to incur a glut of supply, thanks to lower energy prices.
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“Many of these agriculture stocks have gotten cheap here after 18 months of brutal declines, but I think it is too early to start bottom fishing in the group,” Cramer said.
Cramer thinks there needs to be a sustained recovery in the underlying commodities, before agriculture stocks can make a comeback. So, while the world is still hungry, perhaps not hungry enough since there is an oversupply of nearly every crop under the sun.