Manage processes from farm to fork

Career

Agri-business denotes the collective business activities that are performed from farm to fork.

It covers the supply of agricultural inputs, production and transformation of agricultural products and their distribution to consumers. Agri-business is one of the main generators of employment and income worldwide.

Agri-business is characterised by raw materials that are mostly perishable, variable in quality and not regularly available. The sector is subject to stringent regulatory controls on consumer safety, product quality and environmental protection.

Traditional production and distribution methods are being replaced by more closely-coordinated and better-planned linkages between agri-business firms, farmers, retailers and others in the supply chain.

These are the central issues addressed by FAO’s Agri-business Development Programme, a body that works on policies and strategies to improve agri-business competitiveness, including fostering better coordination and linkages among business partners. It also produces training material, particularly for farmers and managers of agro-processing enterprises who need technical, managerial and business planning training.

Agri-Business management is aimed at developing analytical and cognitive skills for micro and small rural entrepreneurs to cope with decision-making and problem-solving. The study also develops training material that provide practical advice and information on management aspects to help entrepreneurs or potential investors to run a sustainable business.

Through the different training materials, training programmes and guides, the aim is to enhance the integration of production, packaging, transport and storage of marketable commodities and value-added products from the farm to the consumer and to support entrepreneurs in rural and peri-urban agri-business development.

Agri-business management encompasses many aspects of the economy: agricultural producers, businesses that provide supplies and services to the producers (including cooperatives), businesses that add value to agricultural products, and those that facilitate the marketing of agricultural products to an ever-growing marketplace.

The need  for agri-business managers is growing, as there are few qualified individuals for the many jobs profiles that are available. There is often an ongoing need in marketing agricultural products as compared to other areas, and working as a marketer.

For example, marketing managers often help identify and develop businesses for farmers or corporations that want to wholesale or retail food and other products. Professionals in these positions must often be skilled at managing people and have an understanding of the business and economics of agribusiness.

Career options
Careers in Agri-business are varied — from farming or ranching to commodity brokering and food brokering to the role of a loan officer, marketing researcher/specialist, product analyst, purchasing agent, statistician, and wholesaler. Today, an agribusiness manager is also concerned with environmental issues, industrialisation, research, foreign markets, and econometrics. This is a field for top-notch, market-aware individuals who enjoy a challenge.

Agri-business includes all business enterprises that buy from or sell to farmers. The transaction may involve a product, a commodity or a service and encompasses items such as:
*Productive resources e.g. feed, seed, fertilisers, equipment, energy, machinery etc.
*Agricultural commodities e.g. food and fibre etc.
*Facilitative services e.g. credit, insurance marketing, storage, processing, transportation, packing, distribution etc.

In a developing country like India, the agri business system with forward and backward linkages consists of the following four major sectors — agricultural input, agricultural production, agricultural processing —manufacturing or agro processing, — and agricultural marketing–distribution sectors.

These four sectors act as interrelated parts of a system in which the success of each sector depends, to a large extent, on the proper functioning of the other sectors. Thus, agri-business is all about how to conduct a successful business in the food and agriculture-related sectors. Agri-business management is nothing but the application of management principles for agriculture.

Need for a degree
Commercialisation of agriculture calls for specialised production, post–harvest management, expansion of processing, transportation, packaging activities and positioning of products, both in the domestic as well as international markets.
Every year, about 20–30 per cent of crop is wasted at farm-level in India due to improper handling, spoilage, floods, droughts, pests and diseases and lack of knowledge of post–harvest norms.

In the case of fruits and vegetables, this wastage is close to 30 per cent. The policy of liberalisation and the establishment of WTO have created more opportunities for globalising agriculture.

Certain sectors in India such as floriculture, aquaculture, poultry, processing of fruits and vegetables are reaping the benefits of advanced technology. Agri-business has become one of the most important fields that boost the country’s economy, making way for better globalisation opportunities and challenges.

Public, private and cooperative organisations look for professionally-competent and trained agri-business managers. The State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) can take a lead in this direction to provide them the desired manpower.

The managerial skills of agricultural graduates can be developed by SAUs. Now, most State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) offer post-graduate programmes in agri-business management.

Currently, some of the premier institutes offering postgraduate courses in agri-business management programmes are as follows:
*National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Rajendranagar (Hyderabad) www.manage.gov.in.

*National Institute of Agricultural – Marketing (NIAM), Jaipur (Rajasthan) —www.niam.gov.in

*Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) (Gujarat) — www.irrha.ac.in

*Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Vastrapur (Ahmedabad) – www.iimahd.ernet.in

*Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Prabandh Nagar (Lucknow) —www.iiml.ac.in
(The author is the CEO, NGF College of Engineering & Technology, Palwal)

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