Ag groups urge Saskatchewan government to review Bunge-Viterra merger

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Four Saskatchewan farm groups are urging the Saskatchewan government to conduct a thorough risk assessment of Bunge’s proposed $8.1 billion acquisition of Viterra.

The leaders of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, SaskCanola, Sask Wheat, and SaskBarley have written a letter to Agriculture Minister David Marit calling for a review of the multinational grain handler and processor deal.

Both Bunge and Viterra operate canola processing facilities in the Prairies, with Viterra currently building the world’s largest integrated canola crushing facility in Regina. Bunge also owns a minority stake in G3, which operates a network of grain elevators in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba — some in overlapping geographies with Viterra elevators. Both G3 and Viterra also operate port facilities in Vancouver.

The Saskatchewan farm groups suggests the provincial risk assessment should look at six main areas of concern:

  • Assessment of Historical Consolidation Impacts: an in-depth analysis of the consequences of previous consolidations within Saskatchewan’s agricultural industry.
  • Regional Competition within the Grain Handling System: A comprehensive evaluation of regional competition dynamics throughout the province’s grain handling system.
  • Implications on Agricultural Markets and Supply Chain: A detailed study of the potential implications the merger may have on agricultural markets, commodity pricing, and the overall
    supply chain.
  • Port Infrastructure Consolidation and International Market Access: An examination of the possible consolidation of port infrastructure and its effects on Saskatchewan’s access to
    international markets and delivery at inland handling facilities.
  • Market Concentration and Ownership: An assessment of the resulting changes in industry ownership and market concentration within the province.
  • Impact on Employment: An evaluation of the potential impact on head office jobs and employment within the grain industry across Saskatchewan.

In the letter to Marit, the groups say past reviews such as the 2010 proposed BHP Billiton and Potash Corp merger and the 2012 Glencore-Viterra merger set valuable precedents. They also cite the RealAgristudies survey that showed 79 per cent of Western Canadian farmers are concerned about the proposed deal, with farmers in Saskatchewan expressing the highest level of concern.

In Manitoba, the Manitoba Canola Growers Association is also seeking feedback from its members to share with the Competition Bureau, noting farmers are concerned the merger would reduce competition among buyers and crushers, limit farmer choice and potentially impact price competitiveness.

On the national stage, Transport Canada and the Canadian Competition Bureau are already reviewing the proposed acquisition. The deal is expected to require regulatory clearance in at least 29 countries, according to documents filed by Bunge with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this summer.

Bunge’s shareholders, meanwhile, approved the deal to acquire Viterra at a shareholder meeting on Thursday where they also voted in favour of moving Bunge’s country of incorporation from Bermuda to Switzerland.

In the news release announcing the shareholder approval on Oct. 5, Bunge reiterated that it expects to close the transaction in mid-2024.

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