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Agriculture investors emerging as World Cup winners

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Who's faring best in the World Cup? Agricultural commodity investors have a claim to joining the likes of Brazil and the Netherlands as major winners.

Coffee prices rebounded strongly on Friday amid a market stabilisation being attributed in part to the football tournament, which is deemed to be adding positive pressure to prices of the likes of sugar and soybeans too.

Arabica coffee futures for September soared 4.2% to 176.20 cents a pound in late deals in New York, on course for their first close above their 20-day moving average in well over a month.

The spot July contract was 4.2% higher at 174.05 cents a pound, on track for its best close in June.

The gains were seen as reflecting in part technical factors, after the September contract in the last session recovered from a four-month low of 166.55 cents a pound to post only a marginally lower close.

Furthermore, there is talk that the Brazilian crop, hurt by drought earlier this year, will indeed show considerable damage, more than that foreseen by the likes of Mercon, which has forecast a 50.5m-bag crop.

"A lot of what we are hearing does point to a smaller crop," said Citigroup's Sterling Smith, who foresees Brazilian production coming in below 45m bags.

'Lose some efficiency'

However, he also highlighted less pressure from producer selling which, while reflecting somewhat crop concerns, appeared down to the distraction of Brazil's World Cup too.

"The world Cup is going to be a factor. It attracts a lot of attention," Mr Smith told

"You probably lose some farm efficiency too, and some movement efficiency" as the industry focuses on football rather than work.

"There has been concern about movement efficiency in sugar and soybeans too."

'Basis rallied sharply'

Certainly, New York sugar futures have risen more than 7% in the six sessions since June 12, the day the World Cup started, compared with a 2.3% drop in the previous six sessions.

Soybean futures, while down some 0.7% in Chicago, have slowed their decline from more than 5% in the six sessions to June 12.

And the turnaround in the Brazilian cash market has been even more marked.

"Brazilian basis rallied sharply this week, pricing them out of the market," Kim Rugel at Benson Quinn Commodities said.

Coffee's change in price performance is in fact less marked, with prices up 1.2% since the World Cup started, compared with a 1.5% rise in the six preceding trading days.

'Not so far fetched'

"The idea of the World Cup having an impact on markets is really not so far fetched," a London soft commodities investor, with considerable experience of Brazil, told

"They have what you might call a more liberated idea about life, compared with the northern European protestant work ethic idea. They do not have quite the same scruples about putting life first."

And Illinois-based crop scout Michael Cordonnier, who makes frequent trips to South America, said, "certainly during a Brazil match, everything stops. There is nobody on the street when Brazil plays".

Lorry bans

There are factors beyond simple distraction to take into account too.

For instance, in Cuiaba, the capital of Mato Grosso, Brazil's top soybean producing state, officials have banned lorries from the main BR163 on the four days when it is hosting matches, and the days before and after too.

"That will cause traffic disruption," Mr Cordonnier told, adding that the threat to drivers is real.

"If they are caught, face a fine, four points on their driver's licence and forced to stay with their lorry for the rest of the duration of the ban."

Four points is, after all, a significant amount. Just ask any fan of the English or Spanish football teams, who have none between them...


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