Business Monday

Bunge Latin America buys grains and food products for industrial customers

William Dujardin, general manager for Bunge Latin America, at the headquarters in Coral Gables May 12, 2015.
William Dujardin, general manager for Bunge Latin America, at the headquarters in Coral Gables May 12, 2015. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

In the commodities trading center at Bunge Latin America LLC in Coral Gables, traders every day buy large volumes of soybean meal and soybean oil, as well as corn, wheat and other food products for hundreds of the company’s industrial clients in Latin America.

“We distribute food products and animal feed to large customers like meat producers [animal feed for cattle, pigs, etc.], wheat millers, industrial bakeries, processed food producers and supermarket chains,” said Coral Gables-based William Dujardin, general manager of Bunge Latin America. The Coral Gables operation is a unit of Bunge Ltd., the giant agribusiness and food company with headquarters in White Plains, New York.

“Bunge covers the entire value chain in agribusiness and food, and we are experts in logistics, experts in getting products to our customers,” said Dujardin, who took over the Latin America post in 2011. “We have important centers for agricultural production in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, the United States and Canada.”

“We also have large milling and processing plants in the region, as well as storage and port facilities and a highly skilled workforce. And we have been in this business for a long time.”

Most of the products traders buy for customers in the Coral Gables trading room come from Bunge’s own huge agricultural storage and processing facilities in the Americas.

Dujardin oversees an important element of the company’s presence in the Americas. Aside from the trading center, Bunge Latin America handles all management responsibilities, sales, finance, IT and other support functions for the northern tier of South America, Central America and the Caribbean, and has offices in Guatemala City, Lima and Bogotá.

Bunge Ltd. also has two other large subsidiaries in Brazil and Argentina, and the Bunge North America unit, based in St. Louis, Missouri, covers operations in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The Coral Gables office opened in 2000 and now has 40 employees. Dujardin also oversees 40 other employees based throughout the region. The Brazil and Argentina operations, which are separate from the Coral Gables unit, have thousands of employees.

Dujardin joined Bunge in 2005 and has held several executive positions at the company. He started out in the industry as a trader at Louis Dreyfus in Paris and South Africa. A French national, Dujardin lived in Brazil and speaks French, Portuguese, English and Spanish. He holds a master’s degree in international business from Paris Dauphine University and an MBA from INSEAD, a graduate business school based in Fontainebleau, France.

Bunge Ltd. got its start in the Netherlands in 1818 when Johann Peter Gottlieb Bunge set up Bunge & Co. as an import/export trading firm. Nearly 200 years later, it ranks as one of the world’s leading food and agribusiness companies.

Bunge has 35,000 employees working in 40 countries, supplies its products to customers across the globe and last year reported revenues of more than $57 billion.

It competes with other global giants such as Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus and Unilever, as well as a raft of other international and regional companies.

Bunge operates a complex international business. Its system includes the purchase, storage, transport, processing and sale of agricultural commodities and products, while at the same time managing risk (price changes, foreign exchange volatility, etc.) across product lines.

The company sources oilseeds (soybeans, sunflower, canola, etc.) and grains at the farm level; processes oilseeds to produce vegetable oils and protein meals (for animals); makes, packages and sells vegetable oils for cooking, as well as margarine, mayonnaise and other foods; makes wheat flour; mills corn and rice; produces sugar and ethanol in Brazil; trades sugar on the world market; and makes and sells fertilizer.

Oilseeds are one key aspect of Bunge’s business lines. To ensure sourcing of quality agricultural products, for example, it makes arrangements with soy farmers in Brazil to purchase their crops. Bunge often provides crop financing and technical advice on how to improve output and avoid environmental damage.

In Brazil, harvested crops are transported to large storage facilities and may either be shipped to customers overseas or sent to local processing plants.

Oilseeds are crushed, and the oil is converted into purified cooking oil, mayonnaise, margarine and other products. Bunge produces its own brands, which are sold to supermarket chains, restaurants, etc., and makes private label brands.

In Brazil, Bunge’s Soya brand is the leading packaged vegetable oil, and its margarine brands (Delicia, Soya and Primor) are big sellers, as well as its Soya and Salada mayonnaise brands. In the U.S. and Canada, a leading Bunge product is Nutra-Clear NT Ultra, a high-oleic canola oil that is free of trans fats and low in saturated fats. It is used for frying foods at large food-service and food processing-companies.

One of Bunge’s advantages over competitors is its wide range of production, storage, processing and port facilities in the Americas, linked to its logistical capabilities, Dujardin said.

“We have a balanced footprint, and we can switch from one source to another, using our logistics system to move products to customers at the right price and the right place,” he said. This allows the company to overcome difficulties like bad weather or poor production in one region, or transportation problems in a particular area.

In the Americas, this footprint includes large agricultural production from countries like Brazil, Argentina, the U.S. and Canada. In addition, Bunge has about 36 percent of its agribusiness processing capacity in South America and 29 percent in North America. The rest is in Europe (20 percent) and Asia Pacific (15 percent).

However, Dujardin says that Bunge’s greatest asset is its diversified, agile and highly qualified workforce. Pointing to his own operation, he noted that the 80 employees who report to him represent 19 nationalities: “We have people who understand the business, the region and what the customer needs.”

Bunge Latin America LLC

Business: Bunge Latin America is part of Bunge Ltd., a major agribusiness and food company that has operations in 40 countries and serves customers worldwide. Bunge’s integrated international operations range from purchasing farm crops to making processed foods for retail consumers. Bunge buys grains and oilseeds from the world’s main growing regions and transports them to clients globally; crushes oilseeds to make meal for the livestock industry and oil for the food-processing, food-service and biofuel sectors; produces bottled oils, mayonnaise, margarines and other foods for consumers; processes sugarcane to make sugar and ethanol and to generate electricity; mills wheat and corn for food processors, industrial bakeries, brewers and other commercial customers; and produces/sells fertilizers to farmers.

Bunge Latin America in Coral Gables is a management and trading operations center covering the northern tier of South America, Central America and the Caribbean. Bunge has two other units in Latin America: Bunge Brazil, based in Sao Paulo, and Bunge Southern Cone, based in Buenos Aires. These two divisions have thousands of employees and oversee crop sourcing, crushing and milling operations, food processing and exports. Mexico is part of Bunge North America, which also includes the United States and Canada.

Founded: Originally established as a trading company in the Netherlands in 1818, the company became a multinational firm based in Buenos Aires (Bunge y Born) and later evolved into Bunge Ltd.

Corporate headquarters: White Plains, N.Y. The company was incorporated in Bermuda.

Regional headquarters: 2655 S. Le Jeune Rd., Coral Gables, opened in 2000.

Bunge Ltd. CEO: Soren Schroder.

Regional management: William Dujardin, general manager for Bunge Latin America.

Employees: This regional center has about 40 in Coral Gables and 40 others in other countries. The company has about 35,000 employees worldwide.

Financial results: The corporation reported 2014 sales of more than $57 billion.

Ownership: Publicly traded on the NYSE (Symbol: BG).


Sources: Bunge