Trading on Pork and Beans: Agribusiness and the Construction of the Brazil-China-Soy-Pork Commodity Complex

  • Emelie K. Peine
Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 20)


As “food crises” appear to increase in both frequency and severity around the world, renewed attention is focused on the political economy of the global food system. Specifically, the emerging production and consumption powerhouses of Latin America and China are drawing attention to the reconfiguration of trade flows and the role of powerful multinational agribusinesses in that process. This chapter examines the emergence of the Brazil-China-soy-pork commodity complex as a lens on global agro-food restructuring. As China has shifted pork production to an intensified, industrial model, its demand for imported soy to feed hogs has skyrocketed. Brazil has largely stepped in to meet that demand, which has led to the integration of the Chinese pork sector and the Brazilian soy sector in a highly interdependent commodity complex. The emergence of this commodity complex signals a shift away from the traditional production and consumption centers of soy (the US and EU/Japan, respectively) towards new South-South trade flows. What has remained the same—at least to this point—is the control exercised over that commodity complex by the four primary transnational soybean brokers and processers: Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis-Dreyfus. The level of control wielded by these four companies is not without challenges from farmers, governments, and NGOs in both China and Brazil. However, because of the structure of the industry and the extent of their reach down the supply chain, these firms maintain significant influence over the governance of this global commodity complex. This chapter addresses the structuring of the global soy market through the interaction of policy and the private sector in Brazil and China, and concludes with a discussion of the consequences of this new commodity system for food, farmers, and the environment.


Supply Chain Foreign Investment Foreign Ownership Transnational Corporation Domestic Enterprise 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank Mindi Schneider for her help researching this chapter. Without her expertise in the politics of the Chinese pork industry, her generous collaboration, and her hospitality in Chengdu, China, this chapter would never have been possible. This research was conducted with support from the Trimble Foundation at the University of Puget Sound.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of International Political EconomyUniversity of Puget SoundTacomaUSA

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