NEW YORK (TheStreet) - In light of the rampant run up in food prices, the agricultural industry has been a closely watched and sought-after slice of the global marketplace.
Investors looking for ways to satisfy their appetite for food and the farming industry have turned to a variety of ETF products which are designed to track the performance of either crop futures contracts or agricultural equities such as
Potash of Saskatchewan
Interestingly, there is currently a large number of futures-based ETFs and ETNs which allow investors to target the industry from a variety of perspectives. For instance, investors can track individual crops such as sugar, livestock, and corn through products such as the
iPath Dow Jones UBS Sugar Subindex Total Return ETN
iPath Dow Jones UBS Livestock Subindex Total Return ETN
Teucrium Corn ETF
Meanwhile, more conservative individuals looking to tap into agriculture futures can turn to the broadly diversified
PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund
to get their fix.
When it comes to tracking agriculture-related equities, however, the number of available options has traditionally been limited.
Market Vectors Agribusiness ETF
has long been my fund of choice for this region of the market.
Other funds such as the
PowerShares Global Agriculture Portfolio
exist. However, they haven't generated the same level of interest and therefore could run the risk of facing illiquidity issues down the road.
This week, IndexIQ unveiled a new product which takes an alternative approach to accessing companies heavily involved in the farming industry: the
IQ Global Agribusiness Small Cap ETF
. On the fund's opening day it appears to have generated some respectable interest, changing hands over 200,000 times.
As its name implies, CROP is designed to expose investors to the global agribusiness industry through a small- and mid-cap lens. By exercising this unique investing strategy, CROP provides investors with a noticeably different take on the industry.
For one, CROP's sector breakdown varies considerably from its large cap cousin. MOO's index is heavily weighted towards agricultural chemicals companies which, together, account for nearly half of the fund's index. This same aspect of the agriculture industry accounts for only 7% of CROP's index.
Rather than focusing on chemicals, the new fund is heavily positioned to benefit from companies involved in supplies and logistics, and machinery. Together, these two slices represent half of the fund's portfolio.
CROP's index is slightly less top heavy than MOO, with 55% of its portfolio concentrated in its top 10 positions. Within MOO, these large holdings represent two thirds of its index. What is concerning, however, is the fact that CROP's largest position,
, accounts for nearly 10% of the portfolio alone. Small- and mid-caps tend to move more dramatically from day to day and focusing too heavily on a single holding may cause the fund to behave erratically.
Other top holdings include
, Nutreco, and Ebro Foods.
Given CROP's dedicated exposure to such a small slice of the agriculture industry, it is not surprising that the fund's expense ratio, 0.75%, is higher than MOO's which stands at 0.59%. Increased risks and higher costs are two factors that must be taken into account before diving into this new fund.
In the end, IndexIQ could have a hit on its hands with CROP in the event that food prices remain on the minds of investors. Despite its strong start, it will be important to keep an eye on the fund's liquidity over the near future to ensure that interest does not wane.
Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.
At the time of publication, Dion Money Management owned PowerShares DB Agriculture Fund.