The Global Drought's Big Winners

The recent drought has hit almost everywhere in the United States, leaving only parts of Florida and the Pacific Northwest free from its effects. Unusually warm temperatures haven't just hit the U.S.; among the international community, Russia and Africa have both seen crop yields decimated by the heat. Consumers around the world may be hit with rising food prices and shortages, but investor portfolios can capitalize on the drought's effects.

Agribusinesses Mosaic (NYSE: MOS  ) and PotashCorp (NYSE: POT  ) stand to profit. The two companies specialize in producing crop nutrients for fertilizers. Combined, they control 32% of global potash production and 18% of global phosphate production.

That's important business for farmers struggling to maximize weakened crop yields and in need of fertilizer. With entire harvests decimated by the heat, Mosaic and PotashCorp should find plenty of buyers desperate to regain ground while food prices stay high.

These two fertilizer kings sport solid net margins, with Mosaic's 17% margin and PotashCorp's outstanding 31% margin destroying the industry average of 11%. Both stocks range above their 52-week moving averages but considerably below 52-week highs, with reasonable P/Es for the industry in the mid-teens. The drop in price makes now a great time to jump into these two stocks to capitalize on a rebound.

Meanwhile, agribusiness staple Monsanto (NYSE: MON  ) should also reap rewards from the drought. The global titan's genetically modified seeds can withstand drought conditions better than organically grown foods. With farmers facing shortages in inventories, Monsanto's seeds capable of weathering the heat could provide a nice buffer for restocking supplies for next year's yields.

Monsanto trades at a premium, flirting with a 52-week high and holding a higher P/E (21.6) than most competitors. However, I believe it has room to grow: With food prices rising, the global agribusiness giant should continue to soar. It's a classic long-term buy-and-hold stock that will service the world's growing, hungry population for a long time. An industry-beating return on investment of 16.3% and a long-term debt-to-equity ratio below half the industry average only adds icing to the cake.

Hungry consumers worldwide will always need food -- and these three industry staples are poised to deliver on those needs. With the drought and rising commodity prices, they should only rise higher.

These three agribusiness providers have all positioned themselves well for growing global demand. For three more great picks to capitalize on rising food prices, check out The Motley Fool's free report, "3 Stocks for $100 Oil."

Fool contributor Dan Carroll holds no positions in the stocks mentioned in this article. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a modified stock repair against synthetic long position in Monsanto. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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  • Report this Comment On August 02, 2012, at 2:58 PM, DrDeVito wrote:

    Monsanto won't be a long term growth stock once people realize GMO crops are killing everyone slowly. America is sadly like the frog in boiling water, who doesn't seem to realize that the tempurate is continuing to rise.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2012, at 5:58 AM, dividendgrowth wrote:

    POT should be flying high given the drought. But it is not, and that's a big red flag.

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