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Five key themes to watch out for at Agrimoney LIVE

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Want to find out what is happening in agricultural investment?

Ask someone who knows. Which is why I am getting excited as the minutes tick down to the start of Agrimoney LIVE.

Speakers at next week's event include big names, from the likes of BlackRock, Monsanto, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Bank.

And that is before considering the esteemed ranks of delegates, each of whom will bring their own take on the sector, besides an appetite for learning more.

Although delegates will have their own individual interests, here are five key themes which I think delegates should look out for.

1 - Volatility

Price movements on stock markets have been unusually muted, until this week, with the Vix index, the gauge of fear, hitting a multi-year low.

That has read through into some agricultural commodities too – although not all, with cotton futures soaring, and falling, while other contracts slept.

Will grain prices remain broadly rangebound? And what does the experience of cotton show about treating ag commodities with too broad a brush?

Answers to these kinds of themes are likely to be found from speakers such as INTl FCStone's Jaime Nolan Miralles, CME Group senior economist Erik Norland, and Arnaud Petit, director commodities and trade at Copa-Cogeca.

2- Supply and demand

One big influence on ag price volatility will be prospects for

crop supply and demand

. The ample supplies of many crops, such as wheat, would suggest that their prices will stay weak - not needing to rise in encourage extra output.

But is that think too complacent? The early-May snowstorms in the US Plains, and the slow pace of recovery in Malaysian palm oil output from El Nino-inspired dryness, remind us of the power of weather upsets.

How many of these can the world sustain, before shortages arise?

Look for insight from Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the UN FAO, MDA's Kyle Tapley, and Jan Lambregts, global head of financial markets research at Rabobank.

3- Political risk

It is all very well having plentiful stocks of a commodity in the world. But there is the question of those inventories being available to purchase.

That underlines the importance of the world's

political ructions

, evident in the likes of the election of Donald Trump as US president and the UK's vote to quit the European Union (as analysed in an report published this week).

How big are the threats to freedom in world trade in ags? How are trade maps being redrawn – take, for example, Mexico's apparent turn, in the face of threats from President Trump, to South America for crop supplies.

Expertise in these kind of topics is provided by the likes of the World Bank's Marc Sadler, Michael Aubrey, partner at Mills & Reeve, and Savills' research head Ian Bailey.

4 - Investment strategy

Taking these dynamics into account,

how should investors react

? Derivatives in ag commodities are a high profile and liquid way of gaining exposure to the sector.

But they are not the only way.

Skye MacPherson, director, natural resources at BlackRock, will reveal the appeal of equities in the sector, while Valoral Advisors managing director Roberto Vitón will throw light on the "hot" topic of ag sector lending.

And a host of speakers will guide delegates through other areas of the industry, ranging from trade finance to South African agribusinesses to Latin American farmland.

5 - Agtech

One new theme for ag investment – in name at least – is


, including its subsector of

big data

, which has opened up fresh ground for ag groups to prospect in, and mine reams of statistics for trends which could open up ground-breaking areas of research.

But what is really on the horizon for agtech? And how much hope should investors place in big data?

Look to the likes of Monsanto's Mac Marshall and Plant Impact chairman David Jones to map the future in this area, besides Sarai Kemp, vice president business development at Trendlines Agtech.

I am sure many delegates will have other questions too. Given the expertise on show at Agrimoney LIVE, I am sure they will be able to find some answers.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Mike Verdin, editor,

For more details on Agrimoney LIVE, click here.

By Mike Verdin

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