BREAKING BREAD

Iran 2017 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Javad Kolahan, Managing Director of Iran Agriculture Investment Co., on agricultural cooperatives, partnership agreements, and opportunities for investment in Iran.

Javad Kolahan
BIOGRAPHY
Javad Kolahan was born in Mashhad in 1982 and received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from PWUT in 2003. He also obtained a Certificate of Completion of an MBA course in Tehran, under the license of Cambridge University. Before assuming his current position, Kolahan worked at Saman Bank and served as Chairman of the Board of FASBA. Moreover, he is a senior consultant at several rural and agricultural cooperatives in Iran.

What role have agricultural cooperatives and pertaining trading sectors played in the development of the agriculture sector in Iran?

The agriculture sector is an important sector of Iran's economy, which is underscored by the fact that the country has more than 4 million farmers. Including the families that they sustain, 20 million people or a quarter of the population depend on jobs in the agricultural sector. The agricultural cooperatives network is a network of local, regional, and national cooperatives that dates back 50 years. These cooperatives are shareholders in Iran Agriculture Investment Co. We have 11 national cooperatives that focus on different agricultural segments, such as livestock, bees, and oil seeds. Iran Agriculture Investment Co. endeavors to help them and to increase the efficiency and productivity of the agriculture sector. We also arrange imports of agricultural goods that Iran does not produce enough to fulfill the needs of the local market. During sanctions we had to work through a dealer, because we were unable to have direct contact with sellers. Now we will serve our shareholders with a direct connection. We also support the farmers and cooperatives in marketing their products outside of Iran. We take part in international exhibitions, especially in European countries. We will be present in international fairs in Cologne and Paris, where we will showcase the products of the cooperatives of Iran.

How do contracts with foreign counterparts assist in your activities?

We produce certain important agriculture products and are the world's largest producer of horticulture products such as saffron, pistachio, apricots, and caviar. Moreover, we are the world's second-largest producer of well-known regional products such as dates and pomegranates. We have excellent products and seek opportunities to improve our connections with the market. We have a contract with IMEXAN GmbH, and it now represents us in markets and exhibitions, though it is not the only company that we work with. We have contracts with large foreign companies and farmer cooperatives in Europe, such as ICS, Avril, and FNPSMS. ICS helps us with irrigation systems. Avril is the market leader and largest producer of rapeseeds. FNPSMS is a French national federation of sorghum and maize and oversees eight large French companies that used to be in Iran. We have this connection because it is a federation like us, with companies that are familiar with Iran and supplied us with seeds that are compatible with our climate and soil. We are a net exporter of agricultural products and an importer of technology. Our contracts with these companies help us serve our network with new agricultural solutions.

How can foreign investors and agricultural companies seeking to enter Iran participate in your investment projects?

We seek investors; after the sanctions, we are in need of new agricultural technology. For example, Iran is by far the largest producer of saffron in the world. Yet, production is mainly done by hand without any machinery. The same goes for harvesting tomatoes. If we had the right equipment, we could make these processes more efficient and increase profitability. We could partner with companies that want to invest in the automation of agriculture in Iran. There are many opportunities for investment in Iran, such as machinery, food processing, and importing new technology for seeds or pesticides. During sanctions, we could not import good pesticides and the products used were not of high quality. Some imported low-quality pesticides destroyed many gardens in Iran. We are interested in quality pesticides, which investors could help us with. There are also opportunities for investors in trading activities. They could set up an office in Iran and purchase products to repackage and export. We can be the local partner for investors both in long-term strategies, such as factories, and short-term investment opportunities.