Cargill's Ex-Head of White Sugar Starts Agriculture Trading Firm

  • Vaelens aims to tap demand to ship products using containers
  • Van Goor says trading to include sugar, rice, wheat flour

A former head of white sugar at Cargill Inc. is starting an agricultural commodities trading company to tap growing demand in using containers to ship everything from sugar to wheat flour.

Bas van Goor, who left Cargill in 2012 for RCMA Commodities, has started Vaelens in Haarlem, the Netherlands to supply products in containers to wholesale clients, he said in an interview in London Tuesday. The company, which has already secured deals to move bagged sugar and wheat flour, will also handle rice, dairy products and palm oil in cans, he said. Van Goor left RCMA earlier this year.

Transporting agriculture in containers expanded from 2004 to 2012 as an alternative to bulk shipments, where freight rates where higher, van Goor said. About three quarters of refined sugar is now traded in boxes compared with 10 percent a decade ago, he said. Marketing grain and feed products in containers now accounts for about 10 percent of the export market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a February report.

"Container trading is where the growth is,” said van Goor, who has traded sugar for more than two decades. “In break-bulk it’s harder because you have to compete with companies like Louis Dreyfus and ED&F Man."

Sugar Business

Van Goor, who worked for Cargill for 18 years, started the company’s container-based sugar business in 2004. Three years later, it handled about 40,000 boxes a year, according to Vaelens’s website. He wanted to expand container shipping to other products while at Cargill, but the way the company separated trading didn’t allow him to.

Financing trading using containers is easier because the volumes moved are smaller, said Van Goor, who also traded freight for Minneapolis-based Cargill for seven years. Knowledge of that market will help him reduce costs for wholesale clients, who will be mainly based in the Middle East and Africa. Vaelens’s two deals so far are for sales to East Africa, he said.

"If you know quite a bit about freight, you can make things move," he said. "I may be able to buy at the same price as the client, but having access to better freight rates will make the difference."

Vaelens should be fully operational next year, when the company expects to have hired another two people, he said.

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