Last month I was invited to join 400 global CEOs, tycoons, thought leaders, capitalists and entrepreneurs at the annual Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore. This year I was proud to see a strong Australian contingent in attendance, including Lindsay Fox, Andrew Forrest, Anthony Pratt, Gina Rinehart and Brett Blundy, all now with keen interests in Australian agriculture.
The conference has a tight program, limited to high profile panel discussions which stimulate interaction between influencers that rarely have the opportunity to converse in their normal course of business.
Increasing income and investment focus on food
The conference kicked off with Paul Conway, Vice Chairman of Cargill, whose commentary focused strongly on food and agriculture. Conway said that the last century of declining proportion of income and investment towards food is coming to an end and that he is expecting a greater proportion of income allocation to food and more investment in the sector.
China. China. China.
Many of the Chinese delegates and panelists provided great insight and context into what has recently become one of Australia’s closest trading partners with the recent agreement of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (see previous Dirt&Dollars post on ChAFTA). Lian Xinjun, Vice Chairman of Fosun International (see Mr Liang’s profile), China’s largest privately owned conglomerate explained that there are 3 China’s:
- Manufacturing China – requires reform and is the reason for many companies offshoring parts of their business. Export opportunities remain for Chinese companies.
- Consumption China – middle class families, not individuals, drive 80% of the economy. Affordable luxury goods and experiences are booming.
- Capital China – Outward Direct Investment (ODI) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) are growing. Chinese companies are expanding internationally through ODI, meaning there is sufficient risk capital available for further ventures. FDI in companies in other countries is prolific at the moment. There is a combination of wholly owned expansion and partnering.
This corresponds to previous Dirt&Dollars posts exploring the realities of Australian agricultural trade with China and some of the challenges and opportunities we face: “China, Australia’s cotton clad girlfriend” and “It’s not all boom and gloom.”
Anthony Pratt, Global Chairman of Visy Australia / Pratt Industries USA, focused on sustainability. In Anthony’s experience, sustainability is the tie-breaker if your price, service and quality are the same as your competitor. He believes Australian food products and soft commodities should seek to improve sustainability to differentiate in a competitive marketplace and shared some tips on people management; “Back your people as nobody ever built a statue dedicated to a committee.” Learn more about Visy’s sustainability initiatives.
What does philanthropy have to do with agriculture?
The Forbes family have a strong focus on philanthropy and this showed through at the conference, with significant mention of WalkFree.org, formed by Raza Jafar and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest. Walk Free has over 8 million supporters to abolish modern day slavery. Take a look at their activities and support this fantastic initiative. The UN Principles for Responsible Investment in Farming address with sustainability and human rights issues pertaining to agricultural investments.
Basic eye balling etiquette
Lindsay Fox, Founder of Linfox, can always be counted on to provide sound advice and this year he encouraged attendees to get back to basics and eye ball people. In his words; “Increase face-to-face interaction and decrease emails… And above all else, trust, integrity and loyalty are the keys to lasting relationships.”
If you would like to discuss how any of these insights can be incorporated into your business please contact AMC on +61733079555 or email@example.com.