Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

How much for the bag of magic (soy)beans?

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The weakening of the U.S. dollar and other currencies has led farmers around the world to value their crops more highly than they do money, said Dan Basse, president of agricultural research firm AgResource Co

“In Argentina, for example, farmers down there are more anxious to hold onto soybeans than pesos. When they need currency they’re willing to take a bag of beans and trade it for whatever they need during that particular day or week.

“I can even say the same in places of the world like eastern Europe and Russia, where the rouble has lost a tremendous amount of value and farmers there feel more comfortable storing some of their grain.”

Basse, speaking at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit, also said he is watching governments in countries like China, Russia and even Saudi Arabia forming crop reserves.

Not for all the tea in China

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Sara Lee Chief Executive Brenda Barnes is looking to expand the reach of the food maker.    But one thing she isn’t looking to do is sell tea in China.

Geographic expansion is a key strategy for the company through its coffee, tea and household products brands, she said at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit. However, business in Western Europe has suffered over the past eight months from recession. 

Sleek new look for Wal-Mart’s Great Value

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Wal-Mart’s Great Value private brand is getting a makeover just in time for its sweet sixteen. 

Great Value, which first hit stores in 1993, is being relaunched with more than 80 new products and packaging that “pops” according to Andrea Thomas, who helped oversee the relaunch and spoke to the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago.

Recession? Not at Reckitt, really

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The recession has hit U.S. consumers, yet Reckitt Benckiser has not felt as much of a pinch.  The maker of Lysol disinfectants and Air Wick air fresheners said shoppers did not shy away from its products even as the overall household products industry felt the impact of pantry destocking, or consumers using up what they had at home rather than buying more products.
   
Rob De Groot, head of the group’s North America and Australia region, told the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago that he did not see a massive consumer destocking.  Click here to hear his comments

De Groot expects Reckitt’s U.S. market share to rise this year, even as the overall market remains flat.

from LEGACY Reuters Summits:

Food & Funds: Double dose of summits coverage this week

This week we've got a double dose of stories for you with both the Food Summit taking place in Chicago and the Funds Summit kicking off Tuesday in Luxembourg. Both summits come at a time when both sectors are in the spotlight. For food, one key question will be: How will cash-strapped consumers spend their hard earned cash if the current economic environment continues to deteriorate. We spent last week putting together a few stories ahead of the Food and Agriculture Summit.

Hormel shines as consumers eat at home:

From pasture to plate: The beef industry sees a double whammy as production prices go on a roller coaster ride and consumer demand sags.

Audio – Kinross in the ‘Sweet Spot’

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In the M&A world, this is where you want to be.

Kinross Gold’s CEO Tye Burt said at the Reuters Global Mining and Steel Summit on Wednesday that as far as mergers and acquisitions go, his company is in a pretty good place — there are more deals hitting his desk, sellers are getting more motivated and Kinross, the third-largest of the Canadian gold miners, has the cash to do a little shopping.

While Burt did not expect to be party to one of those huge mega-deals, he did indicate the company was keeping its options open — and was listening for bargains.

Audio – A little less joy down the road for Joy Global

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Mining and construction equipment maker Joy Global actually had a pretty good week for itself.

The company released its first-quarter results last Wednesday, which topped Wall Street’s expectations and sent the shares up more than 15 percent.

Audio – Air France-KLM CEO sees some unfriendly skies ahead

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The state of the airline industry and travel overall is not poised for a rapid takeoff in 2009 and looks like it will remain in rough shape until next year, said Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, chief executive of Air France-KLM, on Monday at the Reuters Travel and Leisure Summit.

The head of Europe’s largest airline, who became CEO in January, said he was unsure when things would turn around, but warned that both passenger and cargo metrics were down for the airline.

from Ruben Ramirez:

Change lightbulbs. Save millions.

Norfolk Southern says it is working hard to reduce the rail operator's carbon footprint. CEO Wick Moorman says the company is in the midst of a 2-year, $10 million project to change the lighting in it's facilities...he says he's even changed the lightbulbs in his office. Click here to listen to how much money Norfolk is saving and what else it's doing to be more "green."
Wick from Tony Johansson on Vimeo.

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