An agribusiness entrepreneur who gained fame for being the youngest billionaire in the Philippines hopes his visit to New Zealand will help further modernise his country’s agricultural sector.
Joseph Calata is the chief executive officer and chairman of Calata Corporation, the Philippines’ biggest combined seller of agro-chemicals, fertilizers, seeds, feeds and veterinary medicines. It also runs poultry farming and piggery operations.
The 33-year-old is visiting New Zealand from 1-11 October through the ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative, a programme managed by the Asia New Zealand Foundation for the New Zealand Government. He will meet with New Zealand agribusiness leaders in Auckland, Christchurch and Hamilton, as well as business groups and government agencies.
Agriculture accounts for about 12 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product. Calata believes the agribusiness sector has a key role to play in his country’s aspirations for growth and prosperity.
“However, through the years, it seemed that the agri-sector has been neglected by the country and has not been viewed as a promising field of business,” he says. He is an advocate for using technology and science to increase productivity in the sector.
Calata, the second oldest of four siblings, was raised in the province of Bulacan. His parents had a small-scale poultry supply business, which was successful enough to support him through a good education. In 2001, he graduated from De La Salle University in Manila, one of the country’s top universities, after majoring in management of financial institutions.
After graduating, he set about growing the “mom-and-pop” family business. He bought the company’s first computer and accounting software. “I knew that while we were making a good living, there was a lot of potential that remained untapped. The solution for me was fairly obvious – we needed to automate.
“I’m not a computer person so I had to learn everything on the fly. I went through inputting every product, every transaction. As our efforts progressed, the programme revealed the operational and financial inconsistencies.”
His efforts initially met resistance from customers but he persisted. The following year, he hired the company’s first salesman and its revenue began to grow. Other agribusiness companies began to copy his model, he says. “Before then, people had a very traditional view of agribusiness. There was nothing glamorous or slick about it.”
Calata Corporation has grown to a 2.7 billion peso conglomerate. It was listed on the Philippine stock exchange in 2012, making Calata the country’s youngest CEO of a publicly listed company.
The company’s latest initiative is a chain of retail stores called “AGRI”, which offer farmers a wide variety of agricultural products, from feeds to agrichemicals. The company currently has more than 100 stores in Luzon (the largest island in the Philippines) and recently unveiled plans to open 1000 retail outlets nationwide.
Calata Corporation has installed soil testing facilities in its stores outlets to allow farmers to use it for free, so they can decide which type of fertiliser they need. “This soil testing facility can give lots of savings to farmers, since not all farmers have access to this type of technology. Farmers tend to buy fertilisers they don’t need.”
Calata hopes to explore opportunities for technology transfer and joint business ventures during his 10-day visit to New Zealand.
To get involved in Calata’s programme in New Zealand, contact:
Project Manager, ASEAN Young Business Leaders Initiative
Telephone: +64 4 815 8437