Jonathan Drake, former head of the sugar business at Cargill Inc., will join RCMA Commodities Asia Pte Ltd. in Singapore as chief operating officer.
Drake, 50, will work from Singapore and Europe as RCMA expands its trading from rubber and coffee to sugar, according to Doug King, majority owner. He will also be head of sugar and starts June 1. Drake left Cargill, the largest closely held U.S. company, in December after 26 years.
“I have known Jonathan for over 20 years as we both started our careers at Cargill in Liverpool trading non-grain feed ingredients,” King said in Singapore on May 22.
Cargill, based in Minneapolis, said in January that its profit for the three months through November fell 88 percent because of commodity market “challenges” and lower sugar prices. The sweetener fell 27 percent last year, the most in a decade, on speculation supplies would exceed demand. Futures traded in New York are down 16 percent this year.
“The sugar market today is in an oversupply of between 5 and 7 million tons,” Drake said in an interview May 22.
King and Michael Coleman, owners of RCMA, founded the Merchant Commodity Fund which has $550 million in assets, and they are both former Cargill employees. Drake’s information on the sugar market will help the Merchant Commodity Fund decide about its investments and “especially sugar,” King said.
The Merchant Commodity Fund, which is managed by Aisling Analytics Pte Ltd. in Singapore, lost 30 percent in 2011 with sugar as the biggest losing bet, Coleman said earlier this year. It’s gained about 11 percent in the first four months, according to two people with direct knowledge of the fund, who declined to be identified because the information isn’t public.
RCMA will start trading white sugar and will expand its staff to as many as 20 people in 18 months, said Drake, who has spent 21 years in the sugar industry. While at Cargill, he helped expand the sugar business from 22 employees to 425 workers globally, he said. Drake correctly forecast in February 2009 that a shortage would drive prices higher. Raw sugar prices more than doubled that year.
“Drake transformed Cargill into one of the world’s largest sugar trading companies,” said Plinio Nastari, president of Datagro Ltd., a sugar consulting company in Barueri, Brazil, which has counted Cargill as a customer since 1984. “He has always influenced the market and will continue to do so.”
Net profit at RCMA Commodities rose to $32 million last year from $19 million in 2010. It employs about 100 people, up from 67 in the past two years, King said. Chief Executive Officer Chris Pardey and Drake also have stakes in the company.