SAUDI ARABIA - Agriculture
CEO, JBS - MENA
Mohamed Mahrous is currently the CEO of JBS-MENA, the indisputable global leader in the food industry. He brings with him a wealth of experiences of more than 30 years of successful management. Prior to JBS, he was the CEO of Americana Meat and Bakery Cluster, which is one of the largest FMCG companies in the MENA region.
Mohamed Mahrous, CEO of JBS – MENA, talks to TBY about the firm’s mandate in Saudi Arabia, lessons learned from the pandemic, and the growth and evolution of the food industry in the country.
What is JBS’s mandate in Saudi Arabia?
JBS is a leading, global food company for meats and poultry. Our head office is in Brazil, but we have a strong presence in the US, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East, which is important to us. MENA, and now Saudi Arabia in particular, has become an important place for strengthening our business. During 1Q2022, JBS global achieved an almost 150% net profit increase with close to USD18 billion gained. Saudi Arabia is our main pillar for expanding our operation in the Middle East and Africa. It is one of the most strategic and critical markets.
What are the main lessons learned from the pandemic, and how did JBS navigate this particular challenge?
The pandemic affected the whole world and it certainly affected the supply chain. It was a safety issue for everybody and we had a great deal of panic during the last period. Thankfully, some of the pressure has started to ease and we hope this is the case for everybody. We learned a great deal from the pandemic both internationally and locally. Our safety measures became strong within our facilities and our relation to the shipping lines was reorganized to secure our service worldwide. We started by restricting access to facilities, working from home, and providing 100% free healthcare. We also diversified our supply chain. At the same time, we managed to safeguard our supply to our customers. We have a close relation with our shipping lines. We found many solutions and left no stone unturned trying to solve the problems of our customers and suppliers.
Who is your customer base in Saudi Arabia?
In the past, we only concentrated on key customers and distributors because we were the net importer in the Middle East. We treat the region as an exporting market to everywhere in the world. This has completely changed and we are now a local producer. We started by acquiring two facilities, the main one is in Saudi Arabia and another in the Emirates. This is to produce locally for a value-added product. We have set up another three distribution companies in Saudi Arabia. Now we have a fully fledged branches in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Emirates. This was done in order to be close to our customers. We are strengthening the relationship with key customers as well as our presence in all kinds of channels from small grocery stores up to big companies. We have many brands to sell in different positions in the market to suit all needs.
What is your assessment of the growth and evolution of the food industry in the Kingdom?
Saudi Arabia is a huge market. With Vision 2030 in place, the transformation is rapidly changing the business environment. The attraction of business and building on the great infrastructure of Saudi Arabia with the support of the government, the people, and the different ministries in industry, trade, investment is greatly empowering. Saudi Arabia contributes to more than 50% of the entire area consumption, so with this attraction and development in the infrastructure, companies are looking to develop new business. The growing, younger population needs more changes in food varieties in offer. The future of Saudi Arabia food market looks promising. Saudi Arabia represents one of the biggest consumptions of halal food worldwide; therefore, it deserves to be one of the main exporters of halal food globally.
Where else are you are looking to establish other footholds?
We already have production facilities in UAE and Saudi Arabia and we have distribution facilities in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates as well. Our main motive now is to expand more in Saudi Arabia in order to overtake the market. We have acquired small facilities and are about to expand for local production, since we aim to be a local producer and use Saudi Arabia as an export hub for JBS worldwide distribution of halal food. This will also include expansion of our manufacturing facilities, offering our service everywhere in the Kingdom and strengthening our relationship with our distributors. We need to be suitable to treat all of our customers with a different level of service. We want to be an integral part of this great journey and participate in Saudi’s Vision 2030.
What are JBS’s goals and expectations for the rest of 2022?
One of our main objectives is to be net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. We are looking forward to embedding that culture in MENA as soon as possible. We have many developments in our facilities and diversification in our new product lines. Our main ambition for the rest of 2022 is to stabilize our existence. This is our first year in direct operation in Saudi Arabia, so this year will be a memorable one for us as a startup from the biggest food company worldwide to have a solid position in Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest growing economies in the world. Our population has now increased to more than 25% Saudi employees both males and females. Another objective is to train and acquire the best of Saudi talent in the markets.
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