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Keeping the Food Business Afloat

December 3, 2018

The huge part that food plays in the global economy is not something people always take the time to think about. You might ask how, for instance, merchants like Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) have come to ship millions of tons of food and other products across oceans every year. The answer is that, as technology has advanced, more and more efficient shipping has made it possible for goods to be transported to more people, more cheaply. Today, responsible companies are still working to make freight activities work better – more responsive, more flexible, and more environmentally friendly.

For more than 165 years LDC has developed integrated solutions, based on our experience and know-how, to optimize transport in ways that provide the best value for money to our customers. In all that time, whatever the means of transport taken, our compass hasn’t wavered.
The agricultural commodity business in Europe began with relatively small exchanges – farmers in one country noticing a poor harvest in a neighboring country, and bringing their surplus there.

Markets were starting to become more open in the 19th century, making this kind of trade easier.

By the end of that century, major trading hubs, such as Liverpool, were bringing grain and other produce in from all over the world.
New transport ships like the LDC grain ship Carol 1er, launched in 1903, did away with sails to carry larger shipments of grain across the Mediterranean more quickly.

At the turn of the 20th century, countries like Romania and Russia were producing more wheat than they consumed, while the growing industrial cities of Western Europe needed more food.

With the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, and especially the Panama Canal in 1914, seagoing trade boomed. Both new markets and new sources of agricultural products were opening up to the world.

Through the 1920s and 1930s, steam vessels gave way to faster, more reliable diesel powered transport ships to handle greater volumes of trade.

The Panama Canal became so important to international shipping that “Panamax” – the exact dimensions that can fit through the canal – established a standard for ship construction worldwide.

Eventually, though, the need for more efficient shipping favored the construction of even bigger vessels.

Today, yet another challenge has emerged: climate change, and the need to reduce carbon emissions due to transport.

LDC’s commitment to sustainability has to go beyond just our products themselves – it must account for the whole value chain. As a member of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, and a merchant company that takes a holistic, farm-to-fork approach to our business, LDC is uniquely placed to face new challenges, today and into the future.

Dedicated professionals are assessing options and integrating new ideas all the time – emissions technology, cleaner fuels, smarter route-planning, more hydrodynamic vessels – not least to meet the rising standards put in place by the international community to control pollution. But this is no different from how LDC has operated for well over a century and a half, and we will do what it takes to ensure we are all still working, growing, and shipping into the centuries to come.


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