GROWING GREEN

Mozambique 2016 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Pedro Moura, CEO and Board Member of Portucel Moçambique, on the largest nursery on the African continent and responsible land management.

Pedro Moura
BIOGRAPHY
Pedro Moura was born in Braga. He graduated in forestry engineering and also holds an MBA from Universidade Católica de Lisboa. He joined Portucel in 1997 and began working on the Mozambican project in 2007. Previously, he held several positions at a number of companies within the same industry.

How significant is Africa's largest plant nursery to the country and the group's overall activity?

This nursery inaugurated by the president represents a fundamental step in the evolution and implementation of this project. We have a planting program that is very aggressive and is presently being ramped up. We require the right infrastructure to produce the number of plants we need and at the quality we expect. Ultimately this infrastructure will be able to produce between 12 and 14 million plants a year. This production will be complemented with satellite nurseries that will be much smaller in terms of production. This will allow us to manage the risks of concentrating too much in one area. Diseases and pests can adversely affect production. It also allows for a more even spread of employment, which will work out better for the locals. We are working across a large area and want to distribute this wealth as widely as possible.

How will Portucel's nursery contribute to the local economy?

The impact will be enormous. In macroeconomic terms, exports will increase significantly. According to current prices, production will contribute $1 billion to annual exports. Compared to current total exports, that increase would stand between 25 and 30%. Internal added value will be huge, which means a stronger contribution to the quality of life of local families where the project is based. The resulting inflow of foreign currency is also of major importance, contributing to exchange rate stability, which will have a significant impact on controlling inflation. At cruising speed of the project, we may reach 7,000 permanent direct jobs. This indicates the tremendous impact this project will have, both locally and nationally.

What is your approach to managing land allocation?

Our mosaic approach to landscape management involves a combination of various economic, social, and environmental components. As a result, we have been able to manage such a large area we got from the government without any physical or economic displacement, which are two problems we try to avoid. Our first priority is to guarantee that livelihoods will be preserved, and the second thing is to help them improve. We designed a social development plan that will invest around $40 million over the next seven years to work toward preserving livelihoods and improving food security. In some places more than 40% of crops are lost due to bad storage conditions. Also, the One Community, One Forest program will provide opportunities not only to preserve some natural areas where products and services and essential for livelihoods, but also to plant eucalyptus that they can be used for firewood, construction materials, or for pulp processing. We also help to develop SMEs for the provision of services to the forestry segment, as well as a growing scheme to produce wood for the mills. We encourage agri-business value chains to sustain production increases for farmers and their communities. The third pillar is about quality of life, where education and health are the main concerns, as well as infrastructure. Due to programs in these three different areas, we are convinced that economic displacement will be totally avoided and we believe there will be an improvement in the quality of lives. A fourth area where we are working is empowering communities to better manage activities and assets that will be implemented through the social development plan. This is really something completely new in Mozambique.

What partnerships is Portucel considering in order to strengthen operations?

We already have a partnership with the IFC World Bank group, and it has a 20% share of the company's capital. We are looking for another potential partner, and in the future are considering working with Mozambican partners, either national companies or private families. Sooner or later the idea is to enter the stock market and offer Mozambicans the opportunity to own the company.