Cargill Inc. said it will lay off up to 2,000 workers -- about 1.5 percent of its sprawling global workforce -- as the agribusiness giant is buffeted by challenging world economic conditions.
Minnetonka-based Cargill hasn't determined how many layoffs will occur in Minnesota, where the company employs 6,600, many focused in the Twin Cities metro area. The cuts will be made across the company, said Lisa Clemens, a company spokeswoman. Cargill's workforce is spread across 63 countries.
"They will not be concentrated in any city, country or region," Clemens said.
The cuts began this week and are expected to take place over the next six months. Cargill is providing affected employees with severance and outplacement support.
Cargill said in a news release late Friday the layoffs are in response to "the continued weak global economy and are part of an overall effort to reduce expenses and simplify work processes." Mike Fernandez, a Cargill corporate vice president, said that "as economic conditions change, so must we."
Cargill, with its roots in grain trading, is one of the world's largest privately held companies with operations ranging from cocoa in West Africa to soybeans in Brazil to poultry processing in Thailand.
In Minnesota, aside from its headquarters and main administrative offices in the Minnetonka and Wayzata area, Cargill also has a significant administrative workers in Hopkins. The company has three research labs in the western suburbs, and its egg processing business is based in Monticello.
Cargill also has a sizable meat processing plant in Albert Lea and employs people at grain operations in rural parts of the state.
Heads of Cargill's 70 business units worldwide were told to scrutinize costs, including laying off some workers. Thus, the layoffs could cut across many types of jobs, marketing, production, research and so on, Clemens said.
The layoffs come after two consecutive declines in quarterly profits at Cargill after more than a year of steady earnings increases. Cargill's fiscal first quarter profits, reported in October, were down 66 percent from a year ago.
At that time, Cargill's Chief Executive Greg Page said the downswing was largely due to "the persistently high degree of uncertainty in the global economic environment, which injected turbulence into commodity markets and limited prudent trading opportunities."
Clemens said the last time Cargill had a significant amount of layoffs was in the wake of the global financial and economic meltdown that started in late 2008 and went into 2009.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003