Monsanto leaves Syngenta facing awkward questions

August 26, 2015

The world’s largest seed maker has given up pursuit of its Swiss rival. The $46 bln deal required aggressive assumptions and carried risks. Syngenta’s management now needs to prove its reluctance to talk was worth it.

Monsanto heaps pressure on Syngenta

May 8, 2015

The U.S. seeds giant has made a $45 bln approach to the Swiss pesticide firm. The target rejected this as too cheap and too risky. Syngenta has a point: there will be major political and antitrust hurdles. But it needs to lay out just how it will create more value on its own.

U.S. farm credit looks safer than houses

August 20, 2014

Washington’s $200 billion-plus subsidized agricultural lending complex includes Farmer Mac, a rural copy of ill-fated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Despite a hot farmland market, though, the system looks ruggedly capitalized enough to avoid the bailout fate of the home-loan behemoths.

ADM goes M&A wild – sort of

July 7, 2014

The $30 bln U.S. food giant is buying Swiss natural ingredient maker Wild Flavors for $3 bln. It’s ADM’s biggest deal, and a shift from its commodity business. A small add-on with like customers makes sense but won’t change how investors see the firm. The question is, what next?

Chinese hiccup temporarily deflates dairy bubble

June 5, 2014

The price of milk-related products is down 25 pct this year, according to auction platform GlobalDairyTrade. While supply has improved, demand from China has also fallen. The lull is unlikely to last: even slower growth in the People’s Republic would outstrip domestic supply.

Glencore faces fight to land $5.5 bln Viterra deal

March 13, 2012

Buying Canada’s biggest grain handler would round out the commodity trader’s growing agricultural portfolio. The assets are attractive and the timing is right. But rival bidders, a lack of obvious synergies and Canada’s penchant for resource nationalism may present obstacles.

“Cabbage in formaldehyde” is toxic dish for China

May 8, 2012

After tainted milk and glowing pork, a new scandal will hurt China’s small but growing food export trade. A bigger effect will be felt at home. Food scares are inflationary, hurt the poor and erode confidence. Long-delayed agricultural reform should be top of the policy menu.

Global warming adds to food inflation risk

July 13, 2012

Corn prices spike after the hottest U.S. six months ever. Russian wheat is also afflicted. Does global warming threaten a food price shock? For now, the risk is mitigated by a big commodity price retreat from 2011’s speculative bubble. But in the long term, the threat is serious.

Owners deserve right to resell book, byte or bean

April 8, 2013

U.S. courts say peddling used tomes is fine, but digital tunes are different. The jury is still out on genetically altered legumes. It need not be so complicated. The legal concepts of “fair use” and “first sale” are broad enough to satisfy consumers and rights holders alike.

Wheat panic raises spectre of food crisis

By Pierre Briancon
August 6, 2010

The fires that are scorching Russia's earth are of more immediate concern to Vladimir Putin than the situation on world commodity markets. The Russian prime minister's decision to "temporarily" ban wheat exports is an emergency measure he hopes will help shield his people from food inflation or shortages.