Food Market brings news, talk and insight into the food business, from farms to supermarkets to restaurants. Reporters Mike Hughlett and Tom Meersman delve into the work of Minnesota’s food companies and issues such as food safety and labeling.

Ukraine, Russia and Cargill

Posted by: Mike Hughlett Updated: May 21, 2014 - 11:41 AM

As Ukraine-Russia tensions simmer, Cargill is likely paying particularly close attention.

The Minnetonka-based agribusiness giant has substantial stakes in both countries. Cargill opened an office in Moscow in 1991, the year the Soviet Union expired. Since then, it has sunk $1.1 billion into Russia, becoming one of the country’s largest foreign agribusiness investors.

Cargill’s industrial complex two hours south of Moscow makes everything from corn syrup to brewers’ malt to chicken destined to become McNuggets in McDonald’s Russian restaurants.

In Ukraine, Cargill has been a player in the grain business for years, and earlier this year it took a 5 percent stake in the country’s largest integrated agricultural company, an investment reportedly worth about $200 million.

Plus, Russia and Ukraine together make up one of the world’s largest grain exporting regions, and the grain trade, of course, is a bedrock Cargill business.

The company is keeping a low profile on Ukraine’s crisis, which is not surprising.

Thursday, Russia will begin hosting its annual international economic forum in St. Petersburg, an event attended by many executives from U.S- based firms. Mark Klein, a Cargill spokesman, said the company does not usually send anyone to the confab, and has no plans to do so this year.

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