Cargill is in talks to exit its global sugar-trading business as the top agricultural commodities firm seeks to focus on food processing and meat.
The Minnetonka-based company is in negotiations to sell its 50% stake in Alvean, the world's largest sugar trader, to Brazilian partner Copersucar, according to a statement from Copersucar. Cargill deferred to Copersucar for a comment. The deal, if successful, is expected to be announced in the first quarter, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the information is private.
"Both shareholders are discussing an agreement in which Copersucar will become the sole owner, acquiring Cargill's shares in Alvean," Copersucar said in the statement. "As soon as a deal is concluded, we will communicate."
Cargill, one of America's biggest closely held companies, has been changing its business to focus on food-processing and meat as agricultural commodity traders have struggled to make money in recent years.
The firm, which has become less of a traditional trading company, is the third-largest U.S. beef producer, and it has been expanding its protein unit abroad.
The move comes six years after Cargill and Copersucar formed their joint venture, which is led out of a trading office in Geneva. In 2019-2020 it accounted for about 20% of global sugar shipments. While prices are now near the highest levels since 2017 as supplies tighten and investors flock to commodities, sugar traders grappled for years with bumper crops that depressed the volatility they need to thrive.
Cargill's exit follows a similar move by rival Archer-Daniels-Midland. Bunge, which formed a joint venture with BP for sugar and ethanol, has also said it plans to exit the business eventually. While Louis Dreyfus Co. still has a sugar-trading desk, it is also in negotiations to sell its Brazilian mills to Raizen, the South American nation's biggest producer.