Finance & Markets / April 6, 2020

These 3 Commodities Are Gaining Despite COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a chaos to markets that hasn’t been seen in over a decade. As stocks plummet one week and climb the next, there is tremendous doubt and insecurity among investors, business owners, and everyday citizens alike. Thanks to COVID, commodities have suffered especially.

But there are several commodities that are defying this trend, and they all have something in common – they’ve long been touted for their health benefits. As people around the world scramble to reduce their risk of contracting the virus, these healthy foods have seen significant increases in sales.

Whether duped by claims of miracle cures or taking reasonable measures to bolster their health, people are flocking to these three commodities.

 

Citrus: Sales of lemons, limes, and oranges have all seen significant upticks in recent weeks, with the price of orange juice futures notably rising by over 20% last month.

In fact, the spike in demand has been so strong that U.S producers are concerned that there will be a shortage in supply.

“The unforeseen and significant increase in the demand for orange juice exceeded the current supply of orange juice on the U.S. market in recent weeks,” said Marisa Zansler, market research director at the Florida Department of Citrus, in an interview with NPR.

Sales of orange juice have jumped 10% percent from last year, with frozen OJ up 27%. Francois Sonneville, senior beverage analyst for Dutch multinational Rabobank, told NBC that, “When people get the flu, they drink more orange juice because of the vitamin C, and although it’s not confirmed that this will really help against the coronavirus, it does boost your immune system. So demand has been relatively strong.”

With billions of people on lockdown and virtually all restaurants closed down for the immediate future, people are taking their culinary lives into their own hands. For example, people are now eating breakfast who might not usually have the time for it. This means more orange juice.

 

Garlic: With the recent increase in the consumption of garlic, one might think that the world was besieged by vampires and not the novel Coronavirus.

Supplies from China, the world’s principal exporter of garlic, are drying up, and demand in Europe and elsewhere skyrocketing. Prices have risen sharply in Europe and the U.S, and in places like Indonesia and Turkey, the root has become scarce.

Garlic has many scientifically recognized health benefits, and has been used in traditional medicine for millennia. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as the ‘Father of Western Medicine’, recommended garlic against a variety of maladies, from indigestion to parasites to respiratory problems.

Hippocrates, however, never encountered the novel Coronavirus, and there is no legitimate evidence that garlic can prevent or cure COVID-19, as many have claimed.

Nonetheless, people are buying up garlic in droves. In Turkey, for example, prices have risen by over 100%, and importers in place like Japan and the Netherlands are looking to other origins such as Spain to replace lost supply.

“There has been nothing from China since the end of January,” said Dutch importer Danny Deen of Denimpex to NL Times of the Netherlands. “And it is not yet clear when the warehouses will open again.”

With China’s production at a minimum, the country stands to lose some of its market share to origins such as Spain, Egypt, and Chile.

Ginger: Another success story among COVID commodities is ginger, whose prices have risen thanks to a combination of limited supply from primary exporter China and rising demand due to purported health benefits. Commodities data firm Mintec’s ‘Stir Fry’ Index, a composite tracker of garlic, ginger, and chiles, has seen gains of over 20% since the beginning of the year.

The supply crunch from China, which accounts for 47% of all ginger exports worldwide, has had a huge effect on global prices. For example, in the Netherlands, the point of entry for a large portion of Europe’s imported produce, the price of ginger has surged from 1.7 EUR to 3.15 EUR over the last two months.

Although Chinese ginger production is expected to stabilize in May, the opportunity for new countries such as Germany, Turkey, and Spain to gobble up market share will not go unnoticed. Brazil is also looking to make inroads into the US market, and was proving stiff competition for China even before the pandemic.

Ginger has a long history of traditional medicinal usage in China, being considered a powerful conduit of qi that promotes circulation and treats phlegm in the lungs. Nonetheless, like garlic, while it may provide temporary support to the immune system, it is not by itself capable of preventing the virus, much less curing it.

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The COVID-19 crisis has caused turbulence in virtually all economic sectors, and agriculture is no different – supply chains have been interrupted, origins have been cut off, and wholesalers have suffered due to restaurant closures.

However, with all this talk of ‘essential’ industries, it’s a good time to reflect on the most essential of them all – the industry that ensures that when people go to the supermarket, there will be food there waiting for them.

Even in a crisis, agriculture is the most fundamental of economic activities. When times are grim, agriculture soldiers on, and even though the outlook is uncertain, certain sectors are still thriving.

Read more from Farmfolio.

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