Agriculture is still viewed in some sectors in Nigeria as a poor man’s profession. Many unemployed graduates will prefer to carry their CV from one company to the other, rather than to engage in small scale poultry or fish farming. And I bet young girls will rather date an oil company staff than a farmer, right?
Anyway, we really have a big misconception about farming, owing to the oil boom which destroyed our noble agricultural heritage. Farming in developed nations is still a very good profession, and is a sector that will always thrive, no matter the state of the economy, because food is a basic necessity. In America, several billionaires, statesmen and even presidents have stakes in the Agricultural industry. Example, George Bush (Cattle Ranch), Harry Stine and Larry Ellison to mention a few.
The story of the richest farmer in China, may cause to have a re-think about farming.
Chinese businessman Liu Yonghao has an estimated net worth of $4.6 billion as of today according to Forbes. This makes him, not only the richest farmer in China, but also the 36th richest man in China and 369th richest man in the world.
Liu Yonghao and his three brothers founded their company in 1982 at the outset of China’s economic reforms. They quit their government jobs and sold their watches and bicycles to raise 1,000 yuan (US$146.7) to set up in business in the countryside of Sichuan Province.
They started by breeding quails and within six years had amassed 10 million yuan (US$1.46 million) and branched out into the animal feed business. They established Hope Group, the largest animal feed group in China, in 1992.
Liu Yonghao looks nothing like a billionaire. He prefers a T-shirt and slacks to a suit. He drove a Santana for years until his employees insisted he buy a Mercedes. He always travels economy class and buys discounted tickets for all his business trips. He hasn’t changed his hairstyle for years and always goes to the same barber shop. He is careful about the words he uses and always has a smile on his face. His employees do not feel intimidated when he speaks to them.
Liu joined the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in 1993 as a representative of private enterprise. He was appointed vice president of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce the same year. “It gave me lot of opportunities to communicate with outstanding entrepreneurs and professionals. It was an eye-opening experience,” Liu said in an interview. “I’m not the vice president anymore because you can only serve two consecutive terms of office according to the rules. But I’m still in charge of the economics committee of the CPPCC and it gives me the chance to meet and learn from economists. I am trying to learn more about China’s macro-economy to develop a more sophisticated way of thinking.”
Having made a fortune in agriculture, the New Hope Group has diversified into other sectors of the chinese economy, though agriculture remains it’s biggest business. Today, Liu Yonghao’s New Hope Group employs 15,000 workers and owns 90 companies. Its businesses include animal feed, dairy produce, meat processing, real estate, finance, investment, chemical engineering, commerce and logistics. The group has three plants in Southeast Asia. It is the biggest shareholder of China Minsheng Banking Corp. Ltd. and a sponsor shareholder of Minsheng Life Insurance Co., Ltd.
Recently, the New Hope Group has been reported to have been negotiating with the Blackstone Group with regards to the acquisition of Inghams Enterprises, an Italian poultry producer, at a price of $1.5 billion (Do you still think poultry is not a big business?).
This self-made billionaire is currently married with two children. In 2012, he was named by the Chinese government broadcaster CCTV as the Man Of The Year. His younger brother, Liu Yongxing, also made it Forbes list of billionaires this year.
So you can see, farming is still a noble profession and also a wealth generator.