The Industrial Food Chain's Recipe for a Box Lunch
Who’s going to eat whose lunch … the Hardware Grunts or the Software Gurus? The Battle for the control of agricultural inputs is just beginning. Time for a “Kickboxer” Campaign?
A report by the ETC Group
Bayer’s $62 billion bid for Monsanto, as of this writing, has been rejected, but both parties say they are continuing to negotiate. That the “Joy of Six” agricultural input companies may soon become a ménage à trois has been a matter of speculation in ETC Group since mid-2014. If (and it is a big “if”) the marriages of Dow with DuPont, ChemChina with Syngenta, and Bayer with Monsanto are consummated, the only wallflower left on the dance floor, BASF, will either have to hook up or give up. Agriculture is, relatively speaking, small potatoes for the German chemical giant, but, still, it brought home $7.2 billion in crop chemical sales in 2014 and commands a hefty 11.5% of the global pesticide market. Although BASF invests in plant breeding and breeding technologies, it doesn’t directly sell seeds. Instead, the company collaborates on R&D all along the food chain – with Monsanto (developing GMO traits), with Yara (producing ammonia for fertilizers), with synbio company Evolva (developing biosynthetic pesticides), with Cargill (developing oils high in omega-3), with Deere & Co. (selling crop insurance, precision agriculture) – and it has cross-licensing deals with major seed companies including Monsanto, DuPont and Dow. BASF could give Bayer a run for its money wooing Monsanto, or it may decide its dance card is full enough. Or, the company may choose to spin off its Plant Science business altogether. If so, one of the top three farm machinery companies could be a buyer: Deere & Co., CNH or AGCO (in order of sales).