Agri-business: Educating executives key towards growth

Published: January 26, 2014
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Pakistan not prepared for commercial scale farming, say industry officials.

Pakistan not prepared for commercial scale farming, say industry officials.

LAHORE: 

The scope of corporate farming in Pakistan is growing, showing even greater potential for this sector in the coming years, mainly due to product diversification from many local and multinationals in food, beverages and dairy segments. But are the human resources of Pakistan related to this particular sector ready to convert threats in to opportunities, in terms of technology, innovation, researches.

For local companies and corporate farmers, finding such human resources might be a little tough, unlike multinationals which can rely on the transfer of knowledge from their global headquarters. Take for example the recent diversifications in the juices and dairy sectors in the past few years, from local and multinational consumer goods and food companies. Although these companies are now making profits, they are perturbed by the increasing gap of knowledge and human resources.

A few universities and government/NGO-supported institutions are working in this sector, providing basic and slightly advanced education and field training to students and farmers.

“There are basically two groups at the business level in this sector, corporate farmers who don’t know how to improve productivity and make greater financial gains; and those who know about business but don’t know much about practical farming,” said Magdi Batato, Nestle Pakistan’s Managing Director, while talking with The Express Tribune. Pakistan as an agrarian economy needs to develop a class of professionals educated and trained in the relevant discipline, he added.

One such initiative however has already been taken by Lahore university of Management Sciences (Lums) with collaborations of Nestle Pakistan. Economic development, poverty alleviation, enhancing productivity, managing supply chain issues, and research for further innovations through agribusiness is what the market wants. The success of the initiative taken by Lums and Nestle might force other business schools to introduce similar or more up to date courses.

“Such courses/certifications will have a cascading effect on the market as more entrepreneurs will be formed which will deliver much better then now”, said Doctor Arif Nazir Butt, Dean Suleman Dawood School of Business, Lums.

Companies related to dairy segments like Nestle, Engro Foods, Haleeb Foods are all contributing positively in rural economy by involving local dairy farmers in their network. Many locals have started successful modern dairy farming, JDW dairies among which is a prominent example.

Companies have now started projects of modern orchard farms for their survival. This once again is providing opportunities for locals to start modern orchard and tunnel farming. This portfolio would benefit low line farmers in future in terms of technical assistance, education, innovation, though the high price factor which the end consumer will pay to buy such products, as in case of dairy segment, is another story.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2014.

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