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IFC Global Agribusiness Conference May 15-16, 2018 | Amsterdam

The inaugural IFC's Global Agribusiness Conference brought together private companies whose supply chains rely on smallholder farmers, organizations offering products and services, investors, together with donors and government officials to network, share ideas and experiences in beautiful Amsterdam.

Innovations for smallholder supply chains

Under the theme, Innovations for Smallholder Supply Chains, the conference focused on practical solutions to the big challenges of building smallholder professionalism and closing yield gaps between commercial operations and smallholder farmers.

Opening Remarks

Tomasz Telma, IFC Head of Global Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services, welcomed participants to the first IFC Global Agribusiness Conference, explaining how the industry must change to feed a growing global population in a time of climate change and scarce resources.

Opening Keynote: Business case & the development case for integrating smallholders into global supply chains

Carlos Enrique Cavelier, CEO of Colombian dairy company and IFC client Alqueria, in an on-stage interview with IFC Vice President Georgina Baker, explained how the right support can help smallholder farmers overcome risks, expand and build reliable new supply for food processors.

How can innovative financial instruments de-risk investments in smallholder supply chains?

Global companies have long accepted the business and development case for integrating smallholders into global supply chains. But bankers and investors are generally slow to finance such projects, while only a small number of entrepreneurs have set up projects involving smallholder supply chains in fragile countries. In this session, financial solutions providers and entrepreneurs working in remote parts of the world shared their personal experiences with, and ideas for, innovative financial instruments to de-risk smallholder supply chains.

Lightning talks, Part I: What are the disruptive technologies to watch for?

For the past century, technology has been responsible for keeping the pace of food production ahead of population growth. Advances in data collection, processing and global connectivity are creating new solutions for including smallholders into the productivity revolution. Tailoring the distribution of technology to the problems faced by smallholders is expanding availability. In this session, technology start-ups describe their innovations in a succession of quick talks.

How can new technology improve supply chain efficiency and transparency?

Advances in technology that enable data collection and analysis are creating new ways for global companies to work with smallholder farmers. In this session, representatives of global and regional food processing companies discuss how they are using data to help farmers become more productive and increase their incomes, and some of the ethical issues they encounter, such as data security and inclusion of women.

State of the art approaches to understanding and improving livelihoods in smallholder supply chains

Increasingly, agribusiness companies understand that the resilience of their supply chains depends on the livelihoods of their smallholder suppliers. Farmers who earn more can take better care of their families and invest more in their farming operations. This consciousness of the bigger business context is part of an overall trend toward valuing social and environmental sustainability as a source of risk mitigation and better financial returns. How can farmers sustainably improve their livelihoods? By increasing productivity, improving quality and reducing costs of production, said panelists during this session.

Fireside chat: The challenge of climate change

Climate change and food security are mutually reinforcing development challenges defining a world of growing global population. Frank Mars, member of the board of directors and Vice President for Sustainable Solutions at Mars Inc. says we can solve both problems with science, but only if we get the economics and politics right.

What are the cost-effective ways to secure smallholder access to modern inputs?

Like all farmers, smallholders need seeds, fertilizer, plant protection, irrigation, equipment and information to grow crops successfully. Improved inputs can boost productivity, increase quality and help adapt to a changing climate. For farmers, better access to inputs requires financing and effective partnerships to serve farmers’ needs.

What does it take to build the business professionalism of smallholder aggregators at scale?

For a value chain to function effectively, it must work for all stakeholders involved. But as value chains become increasingly complex and global, ensuring that every stakeholder benefits becomes more challenging.

Lightning talks, Part II: What are the disruptive technologies to watch for?

Innovations in technology can reduce costs, for farmers and for doing business with farmers. But even basic technologies, such as drip irrigation, can be slow to spread. Only six percent of agricultural land in sub-Saharan Africa is farmed with drip irrigation, a technology developed half a century ago, noted IFC’s Anup Jagwani who opened day two of lightening talks about disruptive technology. But combine that technology with an innovative business model and change moves more quickly, he added.

Closing Keynote

Throughout the two days of the conference a key theme was the urgency for which agriculture must change and the necessity of all actors to collaborate toward this change, from governments, to civil society groups, development institutions and companies competing for markets and resources. Closing keynote speaker Sunny Verghese outlined the stark facts which highlight just how far away the global agriculture system is moving from its goal of sustainable food production sufficient to feed a growing global population. He also offered an inspiring vision for how to fix it.

Closing Remarks

Carola van Rijnsoever Ambassador Sustainable Development Ministry of Foreign Affairs closed the conference with a passionate address to the participants.

“The private sector is stepping in and stepping up. You can only achieve them if you work with all stakeholders, including the private sector.”

CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS

Watch short video of the exciting discussions and interactions that took place at the conference.

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