Bunge y Born

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Bunge y Born was a multinational corporation based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, whose diverse interests included food processing and international trade in grains and oilseeds. It is now known as Bunge Limited.


Bunge & Born was founded in 1884 by Ernesto Bunge, a German Argentine whose uncle, Carl Bunge, had been Consul General in Argentina for both the Netherlands and Prussia, and his brother-in-law, Jorge Born, who was recently arrived from Antwerp. The company superseded the Bunge Company founded in Amsterdam by Johann Bunge, in 1818. Following the purchase of 60,000 hectares (150,000 acres) of prime pampas wheat fields, Bunge & Born established Centenera, their first food processing plant, in 1899. They had one of the largest wheat mills in the country built on a Puerto Madero lot in 1902, and with it, established Molinos Río de la Plata (later a leader in the local retail foods market).[1]

The company started Argentina's first burlap bag manufacturer, following which they successfully lobbied government policy makers for protective tariffs on the then-critical commercial staple. They established a mortgage bank, the Banco Hipotecario Franco Argentino, and a subsidiary in Brazil in 1905, and by 1910, they reportedly controlled 80% of Argentine cereal exports (Argentina was, by then, the world's third-largest grain exporter).[2] They later established paint manufacturer Alba (1925), chemical and fertilizer maker Compañía Química, and textile maker Grafa (1932), among others; by the late 1920's, the company's annual export receipts alone reached US$300 million.[1][3]

Bunge & Born's near-monopoly on cereal and flour exports ended with populist President Juan Perón's 1946 establishment of the IAPI, a state agricultural purchasing and export agent.[4] The company responded by extending its reach into the country fast-growing retail processed foods market, and though its prominence as the nation's chief exporter was partly restored by Perón's 1955 ouster and the IAPI's liquidation, its focus remained domestic over the next three decades. A privately-held company, Bunge & Born did not release periodical financial statements, though it reported US$2 billion in gross receipts in 1962; by then, it had become a leader in commodity futures trading, operating 110 offices worldwide.[5]

The Bunge, Born, Hirsch, Engels and De La Tour families remained the company's chief stock-holders, and by extension, leaders in the domestic textile, paint, chemical, fertilizer, and food processing industries.[6] On September 19, 1974, however, the consortium was shaken by the kidnapping of siblings Jorge and Juan Born by the far-left terrorist group, Montoneros. The Born brothers were kept in a known Argentine State Intelligence safehouse for nine months until their June 1975 release, something made possible without public suspicion of outside involvement by the agency's numerous contacts inside the Montoneros (including the leader, Mario Firmenich). Freed for a US$60 million ransom (the largest on record at that time), the ordeal triggered the company headquarters' relocation to São Paolo, Brazil, and contributed to the March 24, 1976 coup d'état.[7]

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