ARCHER Daniels Midland (ADM) has been rated the world’s most admired food production company, in Fortune magazine’s annual list of corporate performance rankings.

Responding to the achievement in a statement, ADM CEO Juan Luciano said: “We are proud to be acknowledged by our peers for our leadership in the food production industry”.

“To be recognized for excellence in our work to serve our customers in the food industry speaks to the dedication of our 33,000 employees,” he said.

Fortune magazine’s 2015 ranking process saw 668 companies from 29 countries evaluated by more than 4100 executives, directors and security analysts.

Survey respondents were asked to rate companies in their industry on nine criteria – innovation, people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment value, quality of products and services and global competitiveness.

ADM improved its previous ranking from number three to number one in the food production category, rating first in quality of management, financial soundness and long-term investment value.

The food processing giant eclipsed another Chicago-based company, ingredient supplier Ingredion, which ranked second in food production, dropping from first in Fortune’s 2014 survey.

Ingredion converts corn, tapioca, wheat, potatoes and other raw materials into various food ingredients and other products and has a global customer base which produced net sales worth US$5.7 billion in 2014.

Bermuda based Bunge – which operates a grain export facility at the Bunbury port in Western Australia – was ranked third on Fortune’s list of most admired food production companies, scoring top of its peer group for global competitiveness.

Singapore based Wilmar International,which owns eight sugar mills in eastern Australia, dropped from two in the food production rankings to five this year.

Animal welfare paysMoves to improve animal welfare standards were attributed to the massive ranking surge experienced by Chipotle Mexican Grill in the food services category and also helped Nestle retain its number one ranking in the consumer food products category.

Fortune’s analysis said Swiss company Nestle, with US$92 billion in revenue, is the largest food and beverage conglomerate in the world.

“In one of the most impactful moves to improve the quality of life for animals used in food production, it announced that it would be adopting animal welfare standards affecting 7300 suppliers,” the analysis said.

Chipotle debuted at 44 in Fortune’s overall top 50 list and was ranked third in the food services category.

“The burrito chain debuts on the Top 50 while expanding at a breakneck pace, adding 192 restaurants last year and pulling in US$4.11 billion in revenue, a 27.8 per cent increase since 2013,” Fortune said.

“The stock price has risen more than 22 per cent in the past twelve months, to over US$670 per share.

“With more than 200 restaurant openings on the horizon for 2015, it has no plans to slow down.

“The company also faced a major hurdle when it had to take pork off the menu of 500 of its 1700 stores in January because, it says, suppliers weren’t meeting its animal welfare standards.”

Coffee stronger, fast food slowerMcDonald’s slipped from number 22 to 46 in Fortune’s top-50 list while also plunging from second to fourth in the food services category.

The fall was attributed to consumer criticism over its menu offerings and protests by labour rights activists over minimum wages.

Starbucks retained its number one ranking in the food services category and overall ranking at five in Fortune’s top 50.

“Operating in 66 countries with nearly 22,000 retail stores, the coffee chain shows no signs of slowing down,” Fortune said.

“The first quarter of 2015 marked its 20th consecutive quarter of five per cent or more comparable growth.”

In the chemical industry category, Monsanto improved its previous ranking from second to first but wasn’t included in Fortune’s overall top 50.

John Deere also jumped from second to first in its specific category of construction and farm machinery.

ADM’s Aussie woesDespite ADM’s growing performance and reputation in agricultural processing on the global scene, the company remains a subject of conjecture in Australia.

The US multinational recently made a $3.4 billion takeover bid for Australia’s largest listed agribusiness GrainCorp which was controversially rejected by federal Treasurer Joe Hockey shortly after the 2013 federal election.

During that process, ADM’s past business practices were exposed in a federal Senate inquiry which examined potential supply chain competition issues, if the acquisition was approved.

In the mid-1990’s, senior ADM executives were investigated by the FBI and eventually indicted on criminal charges for engaging in price fixing in the international lysine market.

The company was fined US$100 million and in 2005 was forced to pay US$400 million to settle a class action anti-trust lawsuit connected to the case.

Earlier this month, CBH CEO Dr Andy Crane told a public hearing of the federal Senate inquiry into grain handling logistics that discussions were still being held about ADM investing in the Western Australian grains’ supply chain.

Dr Crane said there was “good investment” in the WA industry as was the case elsewhere in Australia.

“We have seen Bunge arrive, build a port and building up country,” he said.

“We have seen others looking at renovating, using and building a port facility in Albany.

“(WA Liberal Senator Chris Back) referenced this morning with investments that Louis Dreyfus may make existingly near our Kwinana terminal, so investment there is coming.

“We have constant conversations with the big users of our network – and I am sure we will get to this point – about whether ADM, Glencore, or Cargill will invest or not in WA.

“We have those discussions with them quite a lot.

“They hold that over us to ensure that we provide them with good service.”

But NSW Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan – who was one of the most vocal critics of ADM’s attempted acquisition of GrainCorp – said Bunge was “a great tax rorter – the same as ADM”.

“It is interesting that the attitude of ADM when they were here – and you well recall that was, ‘well, if it doesn’t suit you, you can go somewhere else up-country’,” he told Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) officials.

“Everyone knows what I think.

“When ADM left here, (then ADM grain division president Ian Pinner) said they are as pure as the driven snow.

“He got back home and they copped another $700 million tax bill for tax avoidance.

“And last year, you will note – it is hard to believe – there were $700 trillion involved in the derivative swap market,” he said.

“It is a growing industry which is redefining sovereignty.”

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