Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Entrepreneurs See Opportunity In Food Crisis

Richard Spinks, a 41-year-old British entrepreneur, is going door-to-door, leasing small plots of land from hundreds of thousands of poor farmers in western Ukraine. His company, Landkom International PLC, has planted wheat, barley and rapeseed (aka Canola) on a combined 25,000 acres. Landkom expects to reap its first big harvest this fall, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As the world food crisis becomes acute, entrepreneurs see opportunities to tackle it and make big money. Such efforts could give a much-needed boost to feed the growing population of the world. For years, big agribusiness companies have used new seed and fertilizer varieties to push yields higher. But as technology gains have slowed, the search for additional arable land has intensified. That's created an opening for entrepreneurs with visions of re-collectivizing the land in former communist countries and boosting production.

The total combined arable land in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan that fed the former Soviet Union adds up to about 437m acres, almost the same as the total arable land in the United States. Among other nations with large arable acreage, India has 400m acres, China has about 350m acres and Brazil 146m acres. Of these countries, only China and Brazil have increased total arable land by about 10% over the last decade while others have shrunk. Compared to these nation, Pakistan has about 50m acres of arable land. And, given appropriate investments, Pakistan can increase its arable land by 10-20% over the next decade.

The current food crisis presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors to invest in Pakistan's farm sector and reap big benefits. The new government in Pakistan should seize this opportunity by formulating a new policy of investment in the agriculture sector to bring prosperity to rural areas in Pakistan and help feed the nation and the world.

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