By Hassan Siddique
LAHORE: Considering China’s keen interest in investing in the agriculture sector across the developing world, Pakistan’s top public policy entrepreneurs and successful startup runners eyeing the replication of successful Chinese startup model in Pakistani Agri market. Experts believe that with the help of China, Pakistani agriculture sector’s growth can even surpass IT sector with just few key policy initiatives.
Statistics reveal that in 2020, Chinese agri-food tech companies earned a total of US$6 billion, a 66 percent increase over the previous year. According to an estimate involving data from startup tracker Crunchbase and the Agfunder reports, China has 345 plus AgriFood and AgriTech startups that have gathered over USD 16 billion in investments. Thats a 70% year-on-year increase in Agri related startup growth and investments in China. Why? Because China feeds 10% of the world’s population which is their alone. China produces one fourth of world’s grain while it feeds one fifth of world’s population with less than 10 percent of world arable land. Their consistent policy and investment approach in agriculture has resulted in the development and employment of the most advanced agriculture and state of the art mechanisation practices. These approaches to farming and agriculture can be exported can easily be exported in Pakistan, as China continues to rank first globally in the areas of production of cereals, cotton, fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs and fishery products.
Meicai is a multi-category online Chinese B2B marketplace with more than $1B funding from Tiger Global Management, XVC, VMS Asset Management and 9 Other Investors. This startup provides an online fresh food aggregator platform that connects farmers with restaurants. Fouad Bajwa, who is a public policy entrepreneur and Co-founder of Agriculture Republic has successfully launched his project Digital Dera’s in collaboration with the Internet Society, Accountability Lab, Hayat Farms and PTCL is providing similar sort of solution as Chinese giant Meicai is doing. ‘The smart village’ is providing 2,000 farmers with free Internet access and digital tools to help them enhance productivity and manage their crops more efficiently. Fouad Bajwa was of the view that mutual programs between the two governments and startup ecosystems can identify and select start-ups that can or are already impacting the Agri Food and Agri Tech spaces in both countries. Secondly, both countries can develop the management and technological capacities of start-ups while promoting access to investment and partnerships for mutual growth. There is a lot of space for making reciprocal engagement between the startups and investors of two countries. Pakistani government should clear all the hurdles for Chinese companies who are willing to invest and assist in capacity building of Pakistani Agri startups.
A giant Chinese company, Tencent is a global internet and technology leader that creates innovative goods and services to better people’s lives all over the world. Tencent has invested in FJ Dynamics, a Chinese business that sells agricultural automation solutions such as smart tractors and rice transplanters to clients all over the world, as well as unmanned vehicles for ports and factories. On similar grounds Pakistani companies are also looking startup investors to boost their productivity. Pakistani startup Reap Agro is trying to alter the agricultural community, particularly the micro-financing trend in the Agri sector, by giving farmers with interest-free loans in the form of inputs to help them improve their productivity and profitability. CEO of tech-based agriculture startup ‘Reap Agro’ Ehtisham Ali is working on financial solutions for small farmers. He believes that Pakistani Agri startups need funds for expanding and there is very little investment in this space and therefore China can establish accelerator program for Pakistani Agri Startups which can help them grow and build teams required for expansion. He was of the view that Chinese government’s subsidized loans and insurance can revolutionize the farming sector of Pakistan.
Dafengshou is an online Chinese marketplace offering agricultural equipment and inputs, pesticides, fertilizers, disease test equipment, farm machinery, etc. with $73 Million funding from China Growth Capital, Matrix Partners China and Orchid Asia Group. Similarly, a Pakistani startup with the name of Plant.pk is providing unique gardening solutions by offering unique plants, fertilizers and other farming equipment from across the world at the door step of the customer. Plant.pk also provides state of the art gardening and landscaping solutions. Founder of Plant.pk Ijaz ul Haq insisted that Pakistan’s agri startups can grow leaps and bounds if the procedures of the import of Chinese agri products is eased and funding solutions are provided. He suggested a special gateway in CPEC for the import of advanced agri products including agri robots, specialized fertilizers, plant medicines and exclusive plant types. He said that Chinese agri startups are successful because they have all the necessary products at their doorstep, therefore a special agri import policy from China is the need of the hour for our startups.
Hassan Siddique is pursuing his PhD in Communication Studies from the University of Punjab. He has also authored numerous publications on media in reputed journals. Mr. Hassan also possesses vast experience in public and private media projects. He has been overlooking the content of various current affair shows of different News Channels and has also demonstrated his prowess in the Public Relations of a government organisation.
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