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Adecoagro underlines South America farmland price slowdown

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Adecoagro underlined the slowdown in the South American land market, saying that Argentine values have yet to show conclusively a response to improved farm economics, and highlighting a drop in the Uruguayan market.

Land agency Cushman & Wakefield valued the South American the farm operator's land portfolio, which is spread across Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, at $936.1m as of the end of September, up just $700,000 year on year.

While this slow pace of appreciation was in part down to a land sale, even factoring in disposals, and netting out minority investors, the portfolio rose only by some $8.8m over the year to the end of September.

And the group stressed the "transformation" of undeveloped land into arable fields, rather than underlying market strength, for the appreciation.

'Not reflected yet'

Indeed, Mariano Bosch, the Adecoagro chief executive, in response to a question from HSBC analyst Alexandre Falcao over "slightly soft" valuations of the group's Argentine portfolio, said that the boost to farm profitability from agricultural reforms in the country had yet to be confirmed in prices.

"In Argentina in general, margins have improved. So we could all expect prices of land also improve," he told investors

However, "this improvement has not been… reflecting yet on the transactions.

"There haven't been enough transactions to reflect this potential increase that we've been, or that you were, expecting."

Corn vs cane

Meanwhile, in Uruguay, where the group as a 3,200-hectare farm, "we see some decrease on the prices of land in general," Mr Bosch said.

And in Brazil, Adecoagro's experience indicated a two-tier market, with valuations of corn and soybean "land suffering from a drop in crop prices".

Adecoagro's "corn and soybean land in Brazil has decreased because the margins have decreased," he said.

However, on sugar cane-growing farms, "because margin that has improved, [land] has been improved in prices also".

By Mike Verdin

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