March 27, 2019 / 3:58 PM / 2 months ago

Cargill could invest up to $1 billion in Latin America in next five years: CEO

David MacLennan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Cargill, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Bogota, Colombia March 26, 2019. Picture taken March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Food and agriculture group Cargill Inc could invest up to $1 billion in Latin America over the next five years, its chief executive said, and will maintain its operations in Venezuela despite challenges brought on by an economic crisis.

Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Chile offer favorable conditions for private investors, Chief Executive David MacLennan said in an interview late on Tuesday, though he declined to provide details of possible purchases by the company in coming years.

U.S.-based Cargill recently bought Colombian poultry processors Pollos El Bucanero and Campollo and expects to invest between $200 and $300 million in the Andean country in the next two years, MacLennan said, mostly to improve efficiency and expand the capacity of two processing plants.

“We don’t have exact figures at this time, but I will say that if we have $200 or $300 million in Colombia, in this whole area in five years we could easily reach $1 billion,” MacLennan said during a visit to Bogota.

Colombia’s political stability and geographic position are attractive for investors, said MacLennan, who met with President Ivan Duque on Tuesday.

Despite a deep economic and political crisis in Venezuela, Cargill will continue to produce flour, pasta and cooking oil there, MacLennan said.

The company employs some 1,600 people in the deeply polarized country, where hunger, shortages of medical supplies and blackouts have spooked many international investors.

“We will not surrender, it’s a very important country for us,” said MacLennan. “We are very worried for our employees and their security. I think of them every day and hope for a better future.”

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and Bernadette Baum

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