NEW YORK ( Karvy Global) -- Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan ( POT), Deere ( DE), Agrium ( AGU), Yongye International ( YONG), and Zhongpin ( HOGS) will likely provide attractive returns to investors because of increases in agricultural commodities prices that have been driven by production shortfalls and growing food demand.

These stocks have returned 8% to 12% over the past month. However, we expect further gains in the short to medium term.

A combination of burgeoning food demand and massive population growth could drive the agriculture sector. Despite improved production levels, food scarcity is increasing alarmingly. The United States Department of Agriculture expects a 12% tightening in global grain stocks during the next crop year. Higher consumption in emerging economies like India and China, compounded by changing weather patterns, could exacerbate food shortages.

Escalating food demand is driving the fertilizer industry. Potash, phosphate and other nitrogen-based fertilizers are poised to see greater demand, as farmers seek to ensure higher yields and improved production.

The stocks selected are trading at forward price-to-earnings ratios of 6 to 12 (using estimated 2011 earnings), a discount to their historical average of 10 to 15. We have identified stocks with a more than $400 million market capitalization and an average 50% buy rating. The stocks are ranked by the percentage of total analyst ratings that are buy ratings.

No. 5: Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan

This is a Canada-based integrated fertilizer and feed company.

The company reported a 60% year-over-year jump in earnings to $402 million. Higher profitability is an indication of strong demand for potash and nitrogen products. Revenue from operations surged 43% during the quarter.

"Rapidly rising prices for a number of key crop commodities pushed our industry past the inflection point, as demonstrated by stronger demand and the beginning of pricing momentum for all nutrients, including potash later in the quarter," said Bill Doyle, president and CEO of Potash, in a press release,

Gross margins jumped from 31.4% in September 2009 to 35.8% in the last quarter. The potash segment delivered nearly two-thirds of quarterly gross margin. The first phase of the expansion of the company's Cory SK facility was also completed. The stock has been among the best performers in the sector, churning out gains of 35% during the last year. The stock is trading with a forward P/E of 5 to 6.

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