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Merchants of Grain: The Power and Profits of the Five Giant Companies at the Center of the World's Food Supply 0th Edition


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The first and only book to describe the seven secretive families and five far-flung companies that control the world's food supplies. Little has changed their central role since Morgan's best-selling book first appeared in 1979.

Customers Reviews

a great book on secretive industry

5.0 out of 5.0 by MicroCapClub on June 16, 2013
Merchants of Grain is a detailed and alluring account of five very secretive but very large companies that are in the center of the world's food supply: Cargill, Continental, Louis Dreyfus, Bunge, and Andre. All of these companies are as dominating today as they were 25-50-75-100 years ago.Up until 10 years ago, all five were private (Bunge is now public). One thing has stayed consistent, all of the companies still fly under the radar and are still very much family owned. For example, Simon Fribourg started Continental Grain Company in 1813, and today a Fribourg (Paul Fribourg is the Chairman & CEO) still runs the company. Continental is one of the largest companies in the world.Although the book was written in 1979, I'm sure not that much has changed in regards to the big five's size and importance to the food supply. In 1974 for example, Cargill's share of American food exports was barley (42%), Oats (32%), Wheat (29%), Sorghum (22%), Soybeans (18%), and Corn (16%). Abroad, the big five domination of the grain trade was even more impressive, controlling 90% of Canada's barley exports, 80% of Argentina's wheat exports, 90% of Australia's sorghum exports. Again, this was in 1974, but I'm sure they still control a vast amount of food resources.Today, Cargill is the largest private company in the US employing 142,000 people in 65 countries with annual revenues of $133 billion in 2012. Bunge (now public) employs 35,000 in 40 countries with annual revenues of $60 billion. Louis Dreyfus employs 35,000 in 53 countries with annual revenues of $50 billion. The point is these companies are still around and thriving, as they were a generation or two ago.On the worldwide stage, Grain is as important as Oil. Merchants of Grain provides a captivating history lesson on how these companies got their start and events that transpired throughout the 1900's that allowed them to grow, prosper, and dominate the grain trade.
Understanding multi-nationals

5.0 out of 5.0 by Cozette Griffin on December 10, 2017
It is among the most important books on the way international markets and multi-national (or a-national) companies have developed over the last fifty years, a precursor to understanding the stratégies, brilliance and corruption of the "new" giants of information-hiding like Facebook, Google, in short the GAFAM. And readers will find notes about many market and government actors who continued to operate well after the last period covered by the book. Had Morgan been able to update it recently, he surely would have brought in a lot on the murder of the Canadian wheat pools and the conséquences of that additional blow to keeping farming, and farmers, alive.
Outdated, but still pertinent

5.0 out of 5.0 by Scott C. Locklin on July 24, 2012
The 70s were a sort of peak of investigative journalism in America. This is a product of that time. Unfortunately for the modern reader, many of the facts and characters happened 30-odd years ago. I think it was partially inspired by the Soviet grain shipments which caused all that political ruckus in the 70s. The Soviet Union doesn't even exist any more. Some of the commodity trading companies described in this book have since gone public with IPOs (Bunge, for example). None the less, the history of some of the secretive grain and commodity families is still pertinent. Andre, Continental, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus are still privately held corporations who control much of world agribusiness. The way multinational corporations interact with politicians is still pertinent. The commodity exchanges still work much the same way.Want to understand the weird way the world works? This isn't a bad place to start. For folks interested in commodity trading, this is a must-read to understand who some of the counterparties are in speculative trades, and how the mechanics of the grain trade works. For folks interested in politics; this is a must read for understanding, well, politics.It's an eerie feeling googling up information on some of the companies and families mentioned here, and drawing only a few sparse wikipedia entries and conspiracy theories.It's a shame that there isn't more out there like this, perhaps detailing what other privately held companies are up to. Alas, we will have to wait for a new golden age of investigative journalism for this to happen, if it ever happens.
This a must read for any avid reader of history ...

4.0 out of 5.0 by Tildin Katts on October 18, 2016
This a must read for any avid reader of history. This isn't the most well written book but the content make ups for the slightly above average writing. Mr Morgan adds depth the current narrative of where our food comes from by using history to define 'why'. After reading this book one will have a deeper understanding of government role in market and the effects of this over the long term. You will also come away fascinated by the personal achievement of the individuals pioneered the grain industry across the globe.
Merchants of Grain

3.0 out of 5.0 by Steven D. Fought on July 1, 2013
The historical background in this book is useful in describing the origins of the large, private companies that dominate the world grain trade.Some of the vignettes are worth collecting, as are some of the insights into the opaque world of the grain magnates.The book runs out of steam, though, and the last third is dreadfully droll and, to make matters even worse, badly dated. The author's Washington Post-style (i.e., oatmeal) policy suggestions are vastly inadequate in comparison to the power of the behemoths that he has spent the entire book describing.Read the first half or two thirds.
Very interesting read on the history of the ABCDs of ...

4.0 out of 5.0 by Josh on July 24, 2015
Very interesting read on the history of the ABCDs of agriculture and the secretive history of the families.The narrative jumps around quite a bit and is difficult to follow in some parts. Morgan also has large sections which come off as just names, but very informative, most thorough story of an elusive industry which has shaped global history.
The book is OK but the narrative is outdated (relevancy to today's reader may be limited)

3.0 out of 5.0 by Ukraine reader on March 29, 2017
The book is OK - it has a better and more captivating start and becomes somewhat sluggish as you go along. Of course its narrative has become very outdated by now - the industry has emerged and the landscape of grain trading is very different today.