AG Chat, an executive interview series, interviews business experts, investors and entrepreneurs who are leaders in sustainable agriculture.
During a recent AG Chat, Marc Dresner interviewed George Rohr, co-founder and president of NCH Capital. For almost twenty years, George Rohr and the institutional funds he manages through NCH have been investing in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
George Rohr explained to Dresner, “There is a massive shortage of capital that prevails across asset classes, across the geography — across eleven time zones.” NCH has the goal of helping to bring “some of the most productive farmland in the world back into productive capacity.”
As Rohr pointed out, few Western investors have shown interest in this fertile area. NCH has managed to acquire over 700,000 hectares of high-quality farmland in Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.
As Rohr explained, “You are going to see increasing diversification in [Russia and Ukraine] away from such heavy dependency on natural gas, oil and other hard commodities as a source of foreign revenue, toward agricultural commodities. The agricultural sector really is the sleeping giant for both countries.”
This week, the Australian Grains Industry Conference (AGIC) showcased a number of key up-and-coming countries in the agribusiness industry.
VITERRA’s European managing director, Christian Joerg, highlighted the rapidly growing global importance of the Ukraine saying:
“Ukraine was once the breadbasket of Europe, and it can become this again, and maybe fill this role for the world.”
The Ukraine offers great prospects for the agribusiness industry, Mr. Joerg pointed out, because of its extraordinarily high soil fertility and favorable climate for grain production. A small number of international agribusiness investors in the know, such as funds managed by George Rohr‘s NCH Capital Inc., have been early movers in Ukraine.
While many poor farmers in the Ukraine prefer to plant barley because it is a cheaper crop to grow, more are turning their attention to wheat production. Mr. Joerg pointed out that the end of the barley subsidies in the EU has meant that the Ukraine is filling the gap.