Magic and crisis in agribusiness

by Jeffrey Abrahams*

November 11, 2008 – When Dorothy and her friends arrived to the Emerald City, in the Wizard of Oz, they were terrified by the power demonstrated by the magician with his voice of thunder, fearful size and fanciful ideas. However, when a small and keen dog pulls the curtain, a weak old man hidden behind a mechanism to cause fear is revealed. This story is similar to the current scenario of the main financial markets in the world. At first, strong and threatening, becoming afraid. All this leads us to the moral of the story: the greatest professionals stand out during crises. Those who insist on acting as magicians will fail, but those who with agility, intelligence, drive and humility, will survive the crisis in better conditions than when they entered it.

In the Brazilian agribusiness – which employs 37% of the working population -, for example, is not any different. Those who work in the field need to prepare themselves for great challenges. It is useless try act as a great magician, but rather, one must be a manager of ideas, valuing the team and being prepared to understand the problems that can arise from climate or the financial market. Greater productivity per hectare at a lower cost is essential for high precision agriculture.

It is indispensable for this professional to continue to believe in the country. Brazil is “the” place for the sector and its plans will not suffer any impacts in the short and mid terms. The world needs an increasing supply of food and energy – ethanol being worthy of mention in the Brazilian fields – and that is the reason why investors around the world invest heavily in our soil.

“It is during crises that great professionals stand out. Those who insist on acting as magicians will fail.”

The promised improvement in Brazilian infrastructure, with the opening of new road and ports, the modernization of agricultural machinery, and the technology employed in the field also is a factor that contributes to build a positive scenario for those who bet on the business. Even in a favorable environment, professional must take their precautions. Their competencies and knowledge must be fully explored. A financial and, at the same time, agricultural view is the best characteristic that should be expected from these professionals.

Leadership above average and transparency in negotiations are essential. Another factor that differs the agribusiness professional is its capability of adaptation and respect to the culture of the population of the region where he or she works, and understand the differences among its collaborators. The fields is not a place for administrative experiments. The nature of the business requires the professional to be prepared to deal with constant crises. Even though the professional is not capable of, for example, predicting climatic problems, he/she must aggregate knowledge and a first class team to minimize the impacts that may arise. This is also valid for economic problems.

Those who bet on agribusiness will be successful, as long as the leadership position of the company is occupied by a professional capable of identifying clearly the signs of the economy and nature, and prepare itself, be it for risk or quick access to credit, new technologies, that range the use of treated seeds, or GM seeds, to tools that yield high productivity. The magician syndrome no room in business anymore, especially in agribusiness.


*Jeffrey Abrahams is a headhunter, agronomist, and president of Abrahams Executive Search, a specialized executive recruitment company.