Archer Daniels Midland last week bid for Australia’s last independent grain handler GrainCorp , the latest in a series of moves by grain trading heavyweights to grab a larger slice of a booming market as developing economies seek food security.
The four “ABCD” firms – ADM, Bunge , Cargill and Louis Dreyfus – dominate global grain trading along with top global commodities trader Glencore and Japan’s Marubeni <8002.T>, both of which have made major acquisitions in the last few months.
With food price volatility increasingly coming to the fore, most recently in the wake of drought in the U.S. and other key producing regions, concern is growing among importers about extra upward pressure on prices.
“The increasing concentration of power in the global grain market is not healthy. This will lead to grain prices being controlled by top trading companies,” said Rusman Heriawan, deputy agriculture minister of Indonesia, Asia’s top wheat importer.
The United Nations sounded alarm bells on market volatility this summer as corn alone surged around 40 percent in less than a month. Soybeans hit record highs, while wheat also shot up dramatically, reviving memories of the 2007/08 food crisis.
“So-called grain majors account for about 75 percent of the global grain market. If they keep on merging with other grain companies, there is the possibility of a monopolistic situation,” said Han Sukho of the grains division at the Korea Rural Economic Institute.