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Richardson International steps up to global stage with EU oats deal

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Richardson International, Canada's largest agribusiness, stepped up to the world stage by purchasing a European oat processing business, at a time of growing emphasis on scale in the global grain trading industry.

The deal comes against a backdrop of buoyant oat prices, with world oats inventories expected to end 2017-18 at their lowest since at least the 1950s.

Richardson bought family-owned European Oat Millers - which owns two mills in the UK, and is Europe's second-ranked processor of the grain after the UK's Morning Foods – for an undisclosed sum in the group's first major acquisition outside North America.

Curt Vossen, the Richardson chief executive, said that the deal will "build a presence in Europe to enhance our ability to compete in the global marketplace"

Richardson, which is also privately owned, "will continue to seek opportunities to expand our global business".

Long heritage

The Richardson agribusiness can trace its development back over 150 years and is now the major supplier of inputs and the buyer and handler of grain across Canada's three grain growing provinces

The group made its first acquisition outside Canada through the purchase of assets in the US within a portfolio of former Viterra businesses sold by Glencore in 2013 as a regulatory condition of buying Viterra.

Indeed, Richardson's leap to Europe follows a series of acquisition in North America, and in particular in its native Canada, where Richardson has continued to expand its retail network in particular, with the announcement in January of the purchase of Crop First Agro, and with the construction of three new sites in Saskatchewan.

Big in oats

The group's move echoes shifts by larger peers to boost international operations too, with China's Cofco having swallowed-up Singapore-based Noble Agri and Dutch-based Nidera, while Glencore has approached US giant Bunge.

Richardson's expansion in oat milling offers it greater scale in a less high-profile market than that of the more major grains, and is one the group first entered in 2013 with the acquisition of three oat processing plants in Canada, and now ranks as the top player in North America.

Canada is by far the world's biggest oats exporter, with a 70% market share, with shipments largely to the US, the top importer.

The European Union is the world's biggest producer and consumer of oats.

'Tightest on record'

The move comes at a time of buoyant prices of oats, futures in which on Monday hit a contract high of $2.67¾ a bushel in Chicago, December basis.

Halo Commodity Company noted that the global oat balance sheet "has quietly slipped to the tightest on record from both an ending stocks and stocks/use perspective."

World oat inventories will end 2017-18 at 2.28m tonnes, down 700,000 tonnes year on year, and the lowest on data going back to 1960, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Oat supplies "become especially important for countries who still feed a large amount" of the grain, Halo said, flagging the European Union as a key consumer.

By Jamie Day

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