Agriculture Traders Feel Pain as Plentiful Harvests Persist

The era of excess in agriculture is squeezing traders dry.

Years of bumper grain harvests, coupled with low prices and diminished volatility in many markets, are making it tougher for the world’s biggest agriculture companies to make money buying and selling major crops like wheat, corn and soybeans. Now, firms including U.S. processor Archer Daniels Midland and Chinese food giant Cofco Corp. are restructuring or scaling back their ambitions.

During the commodity boom years, the industry thrived on price swings and expanded in a bet that profit would increase as population growth drove food demand. But after record-breaking production by top exporters like the U.S., Russia and Argentina, many markets are mired in surplus. Companies that operate vast global supply networks that deliver crops from farms to food makers now find themselves in a buyer’s market…

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