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Happy 50th! 50 things you might not know about Cargill China’s 5-decade-long story. 

July 22, 2021

For Cargill and its China partners, 2021 is a special year. It’s been 50 years since the company officially entered the Chinese market, a momentous step that not only expanded Cargill’s global capacities but also helped bridge the gap between China and the rest of the world. 

It’s been 50 years of prosperity — benefitting the two parties, their partners and their communities. 

“In Cargill’s global strategic layout, the Chinese market is of great significance and position,” said Jerry Liu, president of Cargill China. “Our development in China over the past 50 years has also confirmed the vitality and potential of this market.” 

As we celebrate the past 50 years and toast the next 50, here are 50 things you may not know about Cargill and China’s long-lasting partnership. 

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1. In 1958, John MacMillan Jr. embarks on a 70-day international trip, including a stop in Hong Kong — a special administrative region of China. He is the first Cargill CEO to visit the Asian country.

2. Over a decade later, Jeremy Lang starts attending the Canton Fair, China’s biannual import and export tradeshow. Lang was the administrative director of Tradax, Cargill’s international operations company. His work partially lays the groundwork for the first Sino-US Joint Communiqué, which opened trade between China and the United States.

3. On January 21, 1971, Cargill establishes the Cargill Taiwan Corporation, a joint venture to produce and sell livestock and poultry feeds. Production begins in October, which officially marks the beginning of Cargill’s operations in China.

4. The Cargill Taiwan Corporation unveils plans for a new feed mill in the industrial city of Kaohsiung. This is Cargill’s first mill outside the U.S. Fred Seed, Cargill’s President, participates in the first formal U.S. business delegation to visit China in 1974. 

5. Four years later, a delegation from the People’s Republic of China returns the favor visiting Cargill for the first time. 

6. The following year, Board Chairman Whitney MacMillan tours the Cargill Taiwan Corporation headquarters and operation plants. Between 1983 and 1984, Cargill forms its Southeast Asia Region (now Asia Pacific) which includes China. 

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7. In ‘88, Cargill enters mainland China with a joint venture with Shandong Supply and Marketing Cooperative, and China International Trust and Investment Corporation. Together, they build a cottonseed crushing plant in Shandong, which begins operations in April 1990. 

8. One year later, Cargill subsidiaries in Taiwan announce plans to build a pork-processing plant that will enable Cargill to serve the expanding appetite of Japanese consumers for red-meat products. When the plant opens in late 1992, it exports 30,000 tons of pork a year to Japan. 

9. In 1992, Cargill Animal Nutrition begins offering farmer education programs. Since then, millions of Chinese farmers have benefited from them.

10. In 1994, Cargill finally opens its Beijing office; the company also opens offices in Shanghai and Dalian, thus consolidating its presence in three of China’s largest cities. 

11. Right before the turn of the century, Cargill helps arrange the sale of 89,500 metric tons of Chinese corn to South Korea. This is a historic agreement, which in part paves the way for China to become South Korea’s leading trading partner. 

12. After 29 years of operations, Cargill China starts the new millennium auspiciously: 10 locations and 300 employees; investment in animal nutrition, corn syrup, crop nutrition, soybean crushing; as well as trading of grain, oilseeds, cocoa, juice, meat, sugar, petroleum, cotton, and ocean transportation.

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13. After the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly votes to grant permanent normal trade relations with China in September 2000, Cargill China operations grow exponentially. Over the following two years, the number of employees balloons to 1,474. The company adds seven new plants and three business units. 

14. The next year, Cargill enters a 50/50 joint venture with the Shandong Huanghelong Group for the production and worldwide sales and marketing of xanthan gum, a food additive used as a thickener, and known for lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. 

15. In partnership with Global Biochem, Cargill becomes the first Western company to open a high fructose corn syrup operation in China. 

16. In September 2004, Cargill and the Hatco Corporation build a world-class manufacturing facility near Shanghai. Their objective? To serve the Asian market with high-performance synthetic lubricants. 

17. Cargill joins Wuhan Alking Bioengineering to produce infant formula for Chinese customers. 

18. The growth explosion continues: 2,400 employees work across 50 locations. Cargill fully owns 11 businesses and has joined 14 ventures. 

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19. In July 2005, Cargill becomes one of the first foreign agricultural companies to receive internal distribution rights in China. This means the company has a license to buy and sell a broad range of products within the country. This represents a landmark in China’s opening to international relationships.

20. Robert Aspell, President of Cargill China moves to Shanghai to develop the new Grain and Oilseed Supply Chain Business Unit in China and Korea.

21. In 2006, the Animal Nutrition team in the city of Fushun earns an internal Business of the Year Award for its outstanding performance in safety, financials, growth, collaboration and employee engagement and development.

22. The company opens a 5,000-ton-per-day soybean crushing plant in Nantong and another plant in Tianjin.

23. This brings the number of Cargill plants in China to 27, along with 17 business units and 4 mosaic fertilizer plants. The number of employees continues to spike, reaching 3,600.

24. In 2008, Cargill China earns a Corporate Responsibility Award from the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, for providing mentoring, judging and funding to university students leading sustainable development programs in struggling communities in northeast China.

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25. In November, another award: the U.S. State Department grants the company the 2008 Award for Corporate Excellence, a global recognition of its leadership in corporate citizenship.

26. Johnson & Johnson Shanghai names Cargill Food (Tianjin) its Excellent Supplier for their “promise of security, stability and reliability,” and their “customer-oriented, efficient and innovative working attitude.”

27. In May 2009, Cargill becomes the first Western company to wholly own a port in China when Grain & Oilseed Supply Chain, Greater China & Korea completes negotiations to acquire the Yangjiang Port.

28. ​​​​​​​That same year, Cargill China receives the Role Model Corporate Citizenship award by the second International Charity Forum.

29. Robert Aspell makes the cover of Business Watch Magazine, China’s main business magazine, as part of a report on ‘new agriculture.’

30. Shanghai hosts the 2010 World Expo, garnering more than 70 million visitors. As part of the expo, Cargill China organizes the Cargill Expo Day on June 18, receiving more than 300 customers, government officials and employees.

31. Early in 2011, more than 60 senior managers from 30 business units and functions come together for the Cargill China Leadership forum to launch the ‘China 2020’ strategy: a detailed growth plan across all Cargill China. "To achieve our vision, we aim to increase our investment in China to account for 10 percent of Cargill's global gross investment by the end of 2020," said Aspell. "To do this means Cargill would need to increase investments in the country by 600 percent and double in size there every four years."

32. In May 2015, Aon Hewitt and LinkedIn select Cargill, among 300 companies, as Best Employer in China, recognizing its effective leadership, employee engagement, employer branding and high performance.

33. In August 2016, Cargill’s animal nutrition business launches a project that will ultimately provide 450 smallholder farmers in Qingshen with baby chicks, veterinary support, and training to help them raise the birds and improve their business skills.

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34. Cargill pulls together its resources and expertise across broad areas in food, including animal protein, edible oils, sweeteners, starches, cocoa, and texturizing solutions, to start Cargill ONE, an innovation center designed to create innovative food products and new flavors for its customers in China. 

35. In recognition of Robert Aspell’s leadership and Cargill’s contributions to the city of Shanghai, he’s presented with the Magnolia Gold award, an honor given by the Shanghai municipal government to foreigners who have contributed to the social and economic development of the city.

36. In 2018, Cargill partners with China Women’s Development Foundation to launch a training program in Chong Qing designed to improve productivity and boost the incomes of small and mid-sized hog farmers — most of them women.

37. In June, Jerry Liu steps up as President of Cargill China, becoming the first Chinese employee to lead the enterprise.

38. In 2019, Cargill announces multimillion dollar investments in two separate projects: a $50 million addition to poultry facilities in the Anhui province increases capacity for cooked chicken products.

39. A separate $110 million expansion to the company’s corn processing facilities in the Jilin province funds the creation of a food safety and technology center in collaboration with the local government.

40. In 2020, Cargill expands its crush capacity to six facilities across China, thanks to the acquisition of a new plant in the northern region of the country. At the same time, the Asia Pacific headquarters of Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain are officially established in Shanghai.

41. After half a century of activity in the Asian country, the China operations represent an unmatched success. The numbers speak for themselves: Cargill China employs over 10,000 people, distributed across more than 50 business sites — which are no longer limited to factories and processing facilities, but also include multiple research and development as well as innovation, technology application, food safety and operation service centers.

42. Cargill China serves not only China, but the rest of Asia and even several global businesses.

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43. The celebrations of ‘Fifty years of prosperity and development in China’ highlight a close relationship with customers, partners, and employees; gratitude towards the Chinese population; and the continuous support of sustainable development, rural revitalization, and community prosperity.

44. Some of the activities include the 50th Anniversary Dragon Boat Festival for employees, held in Shanghai during June.

45. During that same month, Cargill and the United Nations World Food Program launch an agricultural risk management project in the Jilin province. Cargill donates $1 million to help local corn growers enhance their risk response capabilities and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

46. In November 2021, Cargill will participate in the China International Import Expo for the fourth time in a row. At that time, the company will also hold a 50th-anniversary celebration dinner in Shanghai, in appreciation for the support from all walks of life and demonstrating its ongoing commitment to the Chinese market.​​​​​​​

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47. During that same month, Cargill and the United Nations World Food Program launch an agricultural risk management project in the Jilin province. Cargill donates $1 million to help local corn growers enhance their risk response capabilities and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

48. In November 2021, Cargill will participate in the China International Import Expo for the fourth time in a row. At that time, the company will also hold a 50th-anniversary celebration dinner in Shanghai, in appreciation for the support from all walks of life and demonstrating its ongoing commitment to the Chinese market. 

49. Cargill China also launches the 500 Dreams Realization, a campaign that matches Cargill employees and the Cargill Care Committee with disadvantaged groups from across China. The campaign helps fulfill the dreams of children with special needs, elders living alone, left-behind children, and many more. All 500 dreams are now realized, thanks to Cargill China employees.

50. As Jerry Liu said: “We will welcome the next 50 years with continuous investment, focus on customer and customer needs, and persistence in innovation and sustainability.”