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Brazilian farmland market slides into 'negative returns'

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BTG Pactual undermined the case for investing in Brazilian farmland, saying it offered "negative returns" thanks to blows from lower crop prices, and the South American country's high interest costs.

"Land carry brings negative returns, versus Brazil's high cost of capital and inflation," Sao Paulo-based BTG Pactual said.

While Brazil last month cut its benchmark interest rate, the Selic, for the first time in four years, by 0.25 percentage points, at 14%, it remains elevated.

The inflation rate, at 8.5% in the year to the end of September, remains well above the official mid-point target of 4.5%, although it has fallen back from the 12-year high of 10.7% reached early in 2016.

Land price slowdown

Land prices, meanwhile, have grown by just 5.2% year on year, on a like-for-like basis, according to a valuation released overnight by SLC Agricola, one of Brazil's largest farmland owners.

Besides being below the rate of inflation, that rate of appreciation represented a slowdown from 7% in the previous 12 months, and of 19% in farmland prices in the year before that.

SLC Agricola said that its latest appraisal of its 322,529-hectare portfolio - an area bigger than Luxembourg, or half the size of the US state of Delaware – had revealed a value of R$3.69bn.

That is equivalent to R$11,426 per hectare, up only 3.7% year on year, but with the higher appreciation rate of 5.2% deduced from factoring out acquisitions.

North East vs Centre West

The raw data revealed appreciation of 4.3% to R$9,090 per hectare in the price of the group's land in north eastern states, such as Bahia and Maranhão, catching up with the values in Centre West states, such as Mato Grosso, a region for which values rose by 0.4% to R$15,004 per hectare.

The outperformance in the north east comes despite the region's particular crop losses to drought over 2015-16, with a 35% drop in output, according to official data quoted by SLC.

For the Centre West, the loss in grain output was 18.2%.

'Limiting land price appreciation'

BTG Pactual said that the SLC data was in line with other evidence, from the likes of Informa FNP, showing a Brazilian farmland market slowdown.

"The data on SLC's farms confirm the trends already posted… namely, that the recent drop in commodity prices, sub-par land market liquidity and higher interest rates are limiting land price appreciation potential."

Brazilian crop values have been undermined of late by a double whammy of soft world values and a recovery in the real - until the currency's 2% fall against the dollar on Wednesday in the wake of Donald Trump's election as US president.

A stronger real cuts the value, in local terms, of assets traded internationally in dollars.

By Mike Verdin

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