Concentration

REPORT: 'Too Big To Feed: Exploring the impacts of mega-mergers, consolidation and concentration of power in the agri-food sector'

Read the executive summary and key messages here.

Read the full report.

Read the key messages available in French here.

The need to comprehensively assess the impacts of corporate concentration within the agri-food sector has never been more pressing. While concentration is a long-standing feature of the agricultural sector, it has dramatically escalated since the 1980s. The total volume of M&A activity reached a new peak in 2015, the “biggest year ever for mergers and acquisitions” (Farrell, 2015). Since then, a number of high-profile deals have come onto the table in the seed and agrochemical industry, sparking considerable public concern and regulatory scrutiny: the $130 billion merger between US agro-chemical giants, Dow and DuPont, Bayer’s $66 billion buyout of Monsanto, ChemChina’s acquisition of Syngenta for $43 billion and its planned merger with Sinochem in 2018. These deals alone will place as much as 70 percent of the agrochemical industry in the hands of only three merged companies (Dow-DuPont, Bayer-Monsanto and ChemChina-Syngenta).

However, mega-deals have not been limited to these sectors. Since 2015, M&A activity has been prolific in every part of the food chain, including the merger between leading Canadian fertilizer companies Potash Corp. and Agrium, Swiss commodity trading giant Glencore approaching US grain trader Bunge Ltd., US food and beverage process Kraft-Heinz’s bid for Unilever, and online retailer Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market. The scale and speed of M&As today are leading global food and agriculture into a new era of uncertainty, with significant implications for food security and food system sustainability. 

To address the complexity of these trends, we adopt a political economy approach to analyze the extent to which concentration is occurring in different agri-food sectors, the impacts of this concentration, and the possible solutions to redress power imbalances within the food system. The report is therefore structured around the following three questions:

  • What is the current state of concentration in different agri-food sectors?
  • What are the impacts of concentration, and why do these pose risk to the development of sustainable food systems?
  • How might power in food systems be rebalanced to support fairer, more sustainable food systems?


Related activities

IPES-Food co-chair, Olivier De Schutter, and report lead, Pat Mooney, shared their views on the impact of mega-mergers on food security in an article published by the Guardian on September 26, 2016.