China's state-owned food conglomerate Cofco aims to form an international food supply chain after its US$3 billion acquisition of two food traders, while also mulling an international agricultural business in three years which would challenge the dominance of commodity giants such as Cargill and Louis Dreyfus. Ning Gaoning, chairman of Cofco, said it would take about three years to consolidate and integrate businesses of the two trading companies - Noble Group's agricultural products trading unit and Dutch grain trader Nidera. The two acquisitions created a platform for China to source food in the international market and also serve as a window for China's food products to go abroad, Ning said. "We aim to create an international and integrated enterprise with a complete value chain," Ning said, adding this would mean connecting platforms for domestic logistics, processing centres and sales networks. The mainland has become a major importer of grains and vegetable oils. A poor harvest last year forced the mainland to import 7 million tonnes of wheat. The country is also the leading importer in the world of palm oil and has been importing rice from Asian neighbours Vietnam and Thailand. The efficiency of the food chain in China would be enhanced by helping secure food supplies and improving food safety, Ning added. Cofco, or China National Cereals, Oil and Foodstuffs Corp, said in April that it agreed to buy a 51 per cent stake in Noble Agri, a company set up in 1998 to trade and process agricultural products such as grains and oilseeds, cotton, cocoa and sugar. The company is the smallest under Hong Kong-based Noble Group, the biggest commodity trader by sales in Asia. Cofco aimed to make Noble Agri "the principal international origination platform" without going through the ABCD pipeline, referring to the four biggest trading houses of ADM, Bunge, Cargill and Louis-Dreyfus. The deal came less than two months after it bought a 51 per cent stake in Dutch trader Nidera, giving it direct access to South American grain and oilseed supplies. Traders said shutting out the major trading houses may be difficult since they dominate grain and oilseed businesses and have more extensive networks than smaller traders such as Nidera. Yusuf Alireza, CEO of Noble Group, said yesterday that the company shared the same vision with Cofco in building a global agricultural company. Nidera's CEO Ton van der Laan said it was important to have an extensive global network in trade flow as the global market was well-connected and transparent. Ning said he didn't rule out small acquisitions in the near future to support the global network with Noble and Nidera.