Corporate Control of Agriculture: Worldwide and in Brazil

Below are two reports on how a handful of companies control agriculture throughout the world and in Brazil through funding of the rural caucus in Brazil's Congress.

Report: 87 companies control world agricultural production

Brazilian version of Agrifood Atlas provides a comprehensive picture of the agriculture industry in Brazil and the world

Eighty-seven corporations alone, based in 30 countries, control the entire world’s agribusiness supply chain. This includes beverage and meat-packing giants, such as Coca-Cola, AmBev, JBS, and Unilever, but also technology companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon, drawn to agriproducts and food retail due to areas such as Big Data and smart vehicles.

Four large traders – investors in the financial market – control the import and export of agricultural commodities. It’s the so-called ABCD group: US corporations Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge, Cargill, and Netherlands-based multinational Louis Dreyfus Company. They currently hold a 70 percent share of the global market of agricultural commodities.

The data are part of the Agrifood Atlas released on Tuesday in Brazil. The report investigates the global agricultural supply chain and how market concentration in the hands of few companies can shape the global agricultural system.

Maureen Santos, a coordinator of Socio-environmental Justice at Heinrich Böll – one of the organizations that produced the atlas –, explains that the new document analyzes the local reality of agribusiness.

Santos argues that the project’s merit is to map out in one work data about the industry that include finance, investments and machinery; conflicts over land and water; use of seeds and fertilizers in the commodity market; and food processing all the way to consumers.

“We show that, all over the world and also in Brazil, we have very serious problems regarding this chain: the expansion of monoculture crops and consequently the increasing use of agrochemicals and health problems; soil quality degradation and loss of biodiversity; and the conflicts resulting from greater market concentration and more acquisition of land to the detriment of life and work conditions of family farming, as well as peasants and traditional peoples.”


The atlas also shows how the ABCD traders play the financial game in the speculative market.

The volume of corn futures traded in 2015 was 11 times larger than the global production of corn. That means that, while corn harvest reached 978 tons, contracts traded in stock exchanges accounted for around 10.5 million tons.

Not only that, the ABCD group is also directly or indirectly responsible for tropical deforestation. In Brazil, for instance, Guarani indigenous communities accuse Bunge of buying sugarcane produced on land that has been stolen from them in 2012. At the time, the company said its suppliers respect the right to land, but later their contracts were not renewed.

Food sovereignty

Supply chain concentration is also threatening ancient farming knowledge, a concern expressed by journalist Verena Glass, a project coordinator at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation who collaborated in the report. She points out that the increasing use of state-of-the-art technology, such as precision agriculture, represents a threat to food sovereignty in several countries.

“What used to be so alive, which is the relationship between feeding human beings and reproducing life based on the knowledge of the land, the territory, the weather, the animals, and the integration with biodiversity, is ultimately replaced. Adding that to transgenic seeds, agrochemicals, technification, and patents, we lose biodiversity and knowledge,” the journalist says.

Glass also points out the increasing number cases of land conflicts. “Will family farming and agroecology, indigenous and quilombola communities in Brazil and the world have a place in these new paradigms?,” she argues.

The report also shows the number of companies in the global seed and agricultural chemical markets is dramatically dropping as more mergers create powerful corporate conglomerates. After Bayer won approval to buy Monsanto in June this year, the market is now controlled by four big players: Dow DuPont, Bayer, Syngenta, and BASF.

By: Rute Pina | Edition: Juca Guimarães | Translated by Aline Scátola

September 6, 2018


The Dollars and Euros of the Rural Congressional Caucus

Unpublished study reveals: 112 North American and European multinationals help to finance deputies that transform the life of Brazilians into a hell.

The seat occupied by Congressman Nelson Marquezelli in Congress seems to serve a single purpose: to benefit his private business. Sometimes the effort is squeezed. Producer of oranges, the parliamentarian of the São Paulo PTB has already tried to make the juice of the fruit "official drink" of the federal government and a mandatory item in the snacks. Failed. But along with the ruralist party, the politician collects much more significant victories - all facilitated by Marquezelli and his colleagues' connections with giants such as Coca-Cola, Schweppes and the Mitsubishi group.

The financial relations of 112 American and European companies with the businesses of only six ruralists gave the caucus - which includes almost 210 deputies and 26 senators, or 40% of Congress - part of the economic and political power that would lead the country to retreat on issues such as indigenous rights, labor rights and environmental preservation in the last six years.

The achievements of parliamentarians, who work in a bloc to advance their economic interests, include laws and ordinances that facilitate land grabbing; the reduction of environmental preservation areas; the reduction of access to unemployment insurance; and the flexibility of the definition of slave labor.

The chain that links Marquezelli to corporations such as Coca-Cola and Schweppes, the world's leading beverage companies, is brokered by Brazil's Cutrale, one of the largest suppliers of orange juice. For decades the deputy has been selling part of his crop to Cutrale, which finances his political campaigns - in 2014, a year after being caught with slave labor, the company donated R$ 200,000 to its committee. In February of this year, the exporter of juice was sentenced for subjecting its workers to degrading situations, such as lack of safe water, safe transportation and protection in the use of pesticides.

The data are from an unpublished report from the NGO Amazon Watch, which investigated the commercial chains that benefit, in addition to Marquezelli, five other politicians who are also candidates in 2018: Alfredo Kaefer, candidate for re-election by the PP of Paraná; Adilton Sachetti, PRB federal deputy and candidate for the Senate by Mato Grosso; Jorge Amanajás, candidate for the PPS Senate of Amapá; Sidney Rosa, candidate for the Senate by PSB of Pará; and former deputy Dilceu Sperafico, of the Paraná state PP, the only one on the list that does not seek a legislative position this year. The six were chosen for their history of corruption and setbacks in the labor, indigenous and environmental rights, as well as their links with large American and European companies.

Agriculture is profit

The report shows how multinationals do business, albeit indirectly, with parliamentarians who act for their own benefit or in suspicious activity.

One of the problems in these relationships is that many of these companies are marketing about the supposed environmental sustainability of their business - while ignoring the marshals' record of supplying raw materials and political connections to businesses. This is the case of Bunge, a multinational that boasts the "sustainability" of its commercial chain and, at the same time, buys tons of soybeans from ruralists suspected of corruption and unethical practices. These grains have stopped in Spain, Portugal, France and Norway between 2016 and 2017, at consumers' tables impacted by the company's sustainable marketing and ignoring the dirty origin of the product.

One of the parliamentarians who indirectly provided raw material for Bunge is Adilton Sachetti, one of the deputies analyzed by Amazon Watch. He is a producer of cotton, corn and soybeans and defends PEC 215, which threatens the demarcation of indigenous and quilombola lands - areas that ruralists historically struggle to turn into farms.

According to the report, the deputy sells his soybeans to the company of Minister Blairo Maggi, to Amaggi. The minister is among the world's largest producers and exporters of soybeans and sells grain to Bunge. For Amazon Watch, this relationship of proximity among deputies, farmers, multinationals and ministers raises suspicions of illegal or unethical activities.

Dilceu Sperafico, author of the bill that was based on the frustrated order of the Public Prosecutor's Office to flex the definition of slave labor in the country, is another ardent supporter of the PEC 215. Again, for particular reasons: the company of his family is specialized in selling a by-product of soybeans and would benefit from the possibility of expanding their domains.

Today, most of the business is controlled by Glencore, the Rio arm of a Swiss group accused of manipulating international wheat market prices. Among Sperafico's financiers is Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, which belongs to the Japanese giant Mitsubishi, a group that produces everything from cars to air conditioners, in addition to banks HSBC, Santander and Citigroup.

Another corporation funded by the Mitsubishi group's banking arm is Nippon Paper Industries, parent company of Amcel, the Brazilian company that lobbied for the New Forest Code, as explained by USP researcher Paulo Roberto Cunha in his book "Forest Code and Compensation of legal reserve ". The new regulations reduced by 40% the areas under environmental protection in Brazil.

The company exports the production of eucalyptus from Rep. Jorge Amanajás, denounced 13 years ago by illegal land grabbing illegally occupied by Amcel. In the region, a farm of approximately 5,000 hectares was located, which the politician and his congressman Elder Pena used for wood extraction and soybean planting. In recent years, the two have been convicted of embezzlement, ideological falsehood and gang formation. Pena was sentenced in 2017.

The financial relationships that unite some of the world's largest corporations with the most arduous attacks on human, labor, and environmental rights in Brazil are not innocent. Between 2017 and 2018, Germany's Uniper imported more than 85.5 tonnes of Amcel's timber to France, probably the report points out, for use in building a power plant - this after the use of French wood was rejected due to the strong opposition of several NGOs, who pointed out that the exploitation of local forests was not sustainable. The solution?

Outsource the problem to Brazil, even if it meant strengthening criminal history companies and parliamentarians.

Of the 112 companies cited by the report, nearly a third are from the United States. The remaining 82 are divided mainly between Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany. To all of them, the report recommends a careful inspection of its links with the questionable practices of the ruralist group, so that the chain that has financed some of the biggest setbacks in Brazil breaks.

By Bruna de Lara, at Intercept Brasil
September 19, 2018