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Agriculture: Farmland is the new gold

There are not many markets left in which it would be safe to invest but agriculture ought to be a safe bet.

Ian Watson and his business partner, Jim Slater (the author of the influential 1992 book on growth-stock investment, The Zulu Principle), certainly think so. The two completed the liquidation of their metals company, Galahad Gold, in November, and have set up a new fund, Agrifirma Brazil, to invest in farmland in Brazil.

Galahad Gold was set up five years ago when metals were out of favour. Gold was at $275 an ounce and copper at 63 cents an ounce. Watson and Slater focused on investing in the post-exploration, pre-production area of mining, looking for small public companies in which to take an active position. Returns were significant but two years ago the owners of the fund realized that the run would not last for ever and decided to liquidate.

"It was an unusual move given the success of the company but we began to have concerns about equity markets and mining markets," says Watson. "We have some financial years under our belts and we recognized there was too much leverage in the system and that eventually the markets would collapse."

It was good timing. When Galahad sold its position in a uranium company, uranium was $135 an ounce.

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