ABCD and beyond: From grain merchants to agricultural value chain managers
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The world of agricultural commodity trading firms has changed over the years, although corporate concentration has long been a defining feature of this sector. The four dominant agricultural trading firms—the ABCDs (ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Louis-Dreyfus)—have a long history dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s. First established as private, family-owned grain merchant companies with specific geographical specialties, these firms have since evolved to be quite complex companies. They buy and sell grain as well as a host of other agricultural and non-agricultural commodities, while they also undertake a range of activities from finance to production to processing and distribution. New entrants into this space have also taken on complex structures and activities in a bid to stay competitive. In many ways the world’s major grain trading firms now operate more like cross-sectoral “value chain managers” on a truly global scale compared to their grain trade origins. High degrees of concentration combined with control over a vast array of activities give these firms enormous power to shape key aspects of the global food landscape. As a result, the agricultural commodity-trading sector has important implications for farmer livelihoods, hunger and the environment. Following a brief snapshot of the main firms that dominate global grain trading today, I examine the major trends that have reshaped the sector in the past decade. I then outline the main challenges that these changes present for the food system, and suggest possible research directions moving forward.
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Jennifer Clapp (2015). ABCD and beyond: From grain merchants to agricultural value chain managers. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11493
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