Inside Money

Business writer David Chaplin blogs on personal finance

Inside Money: Check the label - capitalists care too, maybe

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Are global institutional investors on the prowl for farms around the world? File photo / NZ Herald
Are global institutional investors on the prowl for farms around the world? File photo / NZ Herald

US investing legend Jeremy Grantham has given New Zealand a big dose of external validation in his latest newsletter.

The GMO godfather has labeled us as almost the best in his ominously titled 'The longest quarterly letter ever'.
"The US and Canada are blessed with natural advantages that are unrivalled (at least if you include security, which, in a desperate, resource-constrained, warming world might hurt New Zealand, that otherwise would look hard to beat)," Grantham writes.

If only we hadn't decommissioned those Skyhawks...

Grantham's letter, in fact, is a wonderful rant about the state of capitalism today:

"Capitalism, by ignoring the finite nature of resources and by neglecting the long-term well-being of the planet and its potentially crucial biodiversity, threatens our existence," he concludes.

Despite his reservations about capitalism, perhaps, driving humanity to extinction, Grantham is not one to pass up an investment opportunity.

"I am, though, more convinced than ever that the biggest of several substantial problems we face is that of feeding the 9 or 10 billion people that are likely to exist one day, with finite land, finite soil, and, perhaps above all, finite mined fertilizer...

"Recently, we have spent some considerable time expanding their capability in order to deal with global farmland. While some farmland in the US has appreciated rapidly and perhaps by too much, farmland is an extremely varied and complicated market both in the US and globally, and one that is inefficiently priced.

"With care and experience, reasonable investments can be made, although a sell-off would of course make for even more attractive opportunities."

With such global institutional money on the prowl for bargains maybe Labour has a point about protecting our farmland.

But would Grantham et al be such bad farm owners? Can capitalists care? We should probably look past the labels.

My former farmer landlord once told me: "I'm more of a greenie than the Greens." He planted trees, was nice to his cows (before sending them off to slaughter) and looked after the land.

Across the valley, a lawyer was busy cajoling the council into approving his 'eco-development' catering to jaded city-dwellers looking for sustainable credentials.

Meanwhile, dozens of the lawyer's sheep lay dead against the fence line, polluting the local water supply.

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