Arun Sudhaman 04 Oct 2011 // 11:00PM GMT
MINNEAPOLIS--US agribusiness giant Cargill is seeking public relations counsel as it steps up efforts to become a leading voice in the global debate around food security.
Cargill corporate VP Mike Fernandez confirmed the development with the Holmes Report, adding that the giant conglomerate was actively seeking agency help from an “issues and CSR standpoint.”
A handful of agencies have been invited to present their proposals to the company, which is one of the world’s biggest producers and marketers of food. The development marks the first time that Cargill is seeking agency support for its food security initiative.
“The tendency of large corporations it to try and boil the ocean,” said Fernandez. “Our hope is to focus our activities in ways that are more helpful to our public policy positions and our customers, and informative to all publics we interact with, including governments and NGOs.”
Cargill’s efforts come as it faces increasing scrutiny of its buying power and role, as food prices become more volatile. During the 2008 food crisis, for example, Cargill reached record earnings $3.95bn, thanks to soaring agricultural commodity prices.
Cargill is responsible for 22 percent of all US grain export, and is a major producer of meat, poultry and eggs.
In a BBC interview last week, CEO Greg Page described these claims as a “non-event”, and said that the company simply served to link supply and demand.
Instead, the company is calling on governments to collaborate more with industry, and resist protecting their markets. “We need trade agreements that allow the free flow of food, so that food is not only accessible but affordable,” said Fernandez.
“The numbers indicate we grow enough calories to feed the planet, but we also have millions of people who are hungry,” added Fernandez. “That goes to infrastructure, trade wars and practices, as well as sometimes issues of corruption and other challenges. The issue for us is how do we make sure that places that have a food surplus are able to move it to places where there is a food shortage?”
Fernandez admitted that it would be “very hard” to find one agency with the necessary global footprint to match its needs regarding this brief. “Food security is important in a lot of places but particularly in Asia, Latin America and Africa - emerging markets is where it becomes super-critical,” he said. “Not all agencies have the footprint that we have as a company. At the end of the day, we might have a primary partner, and in order to execute there might be additional agencies.”
Cargill is the largest privately-held corporation in the US.