GRAIN BUSINESS IN THE NEW AG ERA
Name: Carl Hausmann
Title: President/CEO, Bunge North America, St. Louis, MO
Career: Was appointed to his current position in January 2004. Joined Bunge as Pres/CEO of Bunge Europe following the acquisition of a majority stake of Cereol S.A. and its U.S. Central Soya operations by Bunge in 2002 where he held executive positions. Began his career in 1978 at Continental Grain.
Education: B.S. in business from Boston College. After military service, he obtained an M.B.A. from the INSEAD in France.
AM: Please provide an overview of BUNGE N.A. and its activities.
CH: Bunge North America is an important link in the producer-to-consumer food chain. We take pride in our role in agriculture: sourcing grains and oilseeds grown by farmers and turning them into feed and value-added food ingredients used by the most trusted names in the food industry. We also supply feedstock to the growing biofuels industry and have minority investments in five facilities currently under construction.
Bunge's more than 4,000 employees operate 120+ facilities in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Our businesses are integrated along the food chain and include Bunge Grain, Bunge Oilseed Processing, Bunge Oils, Bunge Milling, Bunge Biofuels and Bunge Latin America.
AM: What new services/programs are being introduced?
CH: Each of our business units works hard to continually improve the products and services we offer to our customers.
We recently hired a number of grain marketing specialists (GMS) whose role is to work one-on-one with our farmer customers to go over our package of contract options to help farmers find the marketing opportunities that best fit their needs. The GMSs work in conjunction with the local elevator and plant managers to ensure we are providing the best service possible.
We have also introduced the first predictive market program for agriculture - Farmetricz. This innovative tool will provide Bunge and participating farmers with unique and timely insights into U.S. crop conditions.
Our food ingredient businesses have been working on innovative solutions to meet increasing consumer demand for more healthful products. For instance, Bunge Milling has a line of whole grain products that are of interest to major cereal manufacturers. Bunge Oils has created the broadest line of trans fat alternatives in the industry using proprietary processes, genetically modified seeds and creative blending.
As Bunge extends our presence in the biofuels industry, we are packaging a suite of services that will allow facilities to leverage our expertise in origination, risk management and biofuels marketing.
AM: What are the major challenges/ opportunities for the grain industry?
CH: Changing trade flows because of biofuels will present both opportunities and challenges for companies like Bunge. We can't simply look at trendlines to estimate production, pricing and consumption. Customer relationships will be even more important in an environment where accurate marketing information can make the difference both for Bunge and the customers we serve.
AM: How has the grain industry changed over the past three years?
CH: The growth of biofuels has changed the landscape, increasing demand and impacting both production and price of key commodities.
Another change that is not getting as much attention is the growth of specialty seeds like low-linolenic
soybean. Until the last couple of years, most genetic traits were geared toward inputs, like Roundup Ready. Now traits are being developed that are focused on output traits like enhanced fatty acid and/or protein profiles. This trend is going to require farmers to be more in touch with end-user demand than ever before. It will also require the industry to adapt to more efficient identity preservation processes.
AM: What are your thoughts about the ethanol food vs fuel debate?
CH: While Bunge is primarily a food company, we are participating in the biofuels industry as a minority investor and as a supplier and marketer of products and services. We believe that biofuels has an important role to play in the energy discussion but the question is how much fuel demand can agriculture support.
We are somewhat concerned that expectations have been overhyped.
Government policies have the ability to distort trade flows and the efficiency of ag production. Some of the recommended mandates could have a dramatic impact on the price and availability of food.
However, we can't count on the markets alone to find the right balance either. With 43% of the world's population living on less than $2 a day, they don't have the purchasing power to ensure that their voice is heard in the debate. It will take societal dialogue and political leadership to strike the right balance and we are encouraged to see that discussion seems to be taking center stage.