Cargill has taken a 5 percent ownership interest in Ukraine’s largest integrated agricultural company, upping its stake in one of the world’s most robust farming regions.
Kiev-based UkrLandFarming announced the deal Monday without releasing terms. The Financial Times, citing unnamed sources, reported that Minnetonka-based Cargill made a $200 million investment.
UkrLandFarming is the creation of a Ukrainian billionaire, Oleg Bakhmatyuk, who made a fortune in his country’s egg industry and whose companies now control over 1.6 million acres of land in Ukraine. UkrLandFarming’s crops include corn, wheat, sugar beets, barley and sunflowers.
Cargill, one of the world’s largest privately owned businesses, is also one of the four so-called “ABCD” companies — Archer Daniels, Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus — that are longtime pillars of the world’ grain trade.
UkrLandFarming is working with Cargill’s grain division to satisfy Cargill’s needs for grain in Ukraine, the Ukrainian firm said in a news release.
In its own news release, Cargill said its “shareholding is minor, nonstrategic and such shareholding does not convey any ability to, nor does Cargill have any intention to control (directly or indirectly), manage or operate the business of UkrlandFarming PLC.”
Cargill has been doing business in Ukraine for over 20 years, operating several grain elevators and employing over 600 workers.
Over the past decade or so, the former Soviet states of Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan have become major grain exporters, particularly of wheat. The grain export business took off after the countries began modernizing their agricultural industries.
Between 2006 and 2011, grain exports from the three former Soviet states accounted for about 14 percent of the world’s grain exports, excluding rice, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By 2021, that number is expected to rise to 22 percent, and corn is anticipated to become a more important export.
Ukraine has ‘Iowa-type soil’
“The potential there is incredible,” said Ed Usset, a grain marketing specialist at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Applied Economics. “The soil type — this is Iowa-type soil.”
But Ukraine needs to continue improving its infrastructure — ports, roads, etc., Usset said.
Bakhmatyuk’s holdings through his companies appear to make him one of Ukraine’s largest landowners.
He said in Monday’s news release that “the agreement with Cargill indicates an important step for UkrLandFarming in developing our international presence and export potential.”