A “giant jump” in world food prices caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has helped three members of the super-rich Cargill family, who own a majority owner of one of the world’s largest food companies, join the ranks of The 500 richest people in the world.
Brothers and sisters James Cargill, Austin Cargill and Marianne Liebman – all great-grandchildren of William Wallace Cargill, who founded Cargill in 1865 – this week joined Bloomberg’s list of billionaires of the richest 500 people. Each has a fortune of about $ 5.4 billion (£ 4.1 billion) – one-fifth so far this year.
They join Cargill’s other great-grandchildren Pauline Kinat and Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer in the list of the richest 500. Each has a fortune of about $ 8.06 billion.
Their fortune follows those of the giant food company Cargill, which employs more than 155,000 people in 70 countries and is expected to record record profits this year, surpassing the record profit of 2021 of $ 5 billion.
This month, the United Nations warned that world food prices had risen to record highs due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said the food price index rose 12.6 percent in March from February, “making a giant leap to a new high since its inception in 1990.”
The UN said that the war in Ukraine “spread shocks to the markets for basic cereals and vegetable oils.” The prices of cereals, vegetable oils and meat have reached the highest values of all time, the agency said.
The war disrupted Black Sea exports of important goods from a region that produced more than a quarter of the world’s wheat exports.
The invasion has helped increase cereal prices by 17% in the past month, with port closures limiting wheat and corn exports from Ukraine. Russian exports are also slowed by financial and transport problems.
World wheat prices jumped 19.7% in March, while corn prices rose 19.1% on a monthly basis, reaching record highs, along with those of barley and sorghum.
Food prices were already rising before Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February, and Cargill CEO David McLennan said he expects them to remain high in 2022.
Minnesota-based Cargill reported a 63 percent increase in profit last year to nearly $ 4.93 billion, the largest in its 157-year history. Revenue rose 17 percent to $ 134 billion.
Andrew Spike of the High Pay Center think tank, which fights for a fairer society, said the Cargill family’s growing wealth is “a depressing accusation of our current economic model – one that has allowed a small minority to become more and more rich despite the longest freezing of living standards in the modern age and the crisis of the cost of living, which threatens to impoverish millions.
He added: “It is now more important than ever for governments to take serious action to redistribute wealth from the super-rich to the low- and middle-income.
Three other members of the Cargill family – Alexandra Deitch, Sarah McMillan and Lucy Stitzer – are also billionaires. The extended family controls about 87% of the company and is ranked as the 11th richest family in the world, with a total fortune of about $ 50 billion.
Eric Munoz, Oxfam America’s senior political adviser on agriculture, said: “We are currently seeing a sharp rise in food prices, which is having a devastating effect on the most vulnerable communities. Excessive food prices, along with the Covid-19 pandemic, are pushing families in countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and South Sudan to the brink of collapse – meanwhile, the profits of the richest are rising. We need to see urgent action to save lives now and to address inequality, the disrupted food system and other root causes of this crisis.
Gemma McGowe, a British entrepreneur and co-founder of Patriotic Millionaires UK, a group that is campaigning for a wealth tax on the world’s richest people to help tackle inequality, said the Cargill family’s growing wealth is another example of the “grotesque failure of our global economy.”
She said: “We are in a state of many crises and governments cannot continue to stand aside as hunger and food poverty increase and the wealth of a select few grows. It is essential to restore the balance of our economies, tax the wealth of people like me and invest in systems that can support the millions of families who are currently unable to feed their children. “