Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Massively Underpriced Post-Soviet Agriculture Market Promises Huge Returns

“AG Chat” Explores Eastern Europe's Enormous Investment Potential

For nearly 20 years, George Rohr and his partners have been gradually, meticulously nudging a sleeping giant—and cultivating what may be the most fertile agriculture investment opportunity on the planet.

Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, NCH Capital (Rohr is co-founder and president) began investing in Russia, Ukraine and post-Soviet Eastern Europe, whose black-earth belt ranks among the world’s greatest—and least optimized—agricultural resources.

“There is a massive shortage of capital that prevails across asset classes, across the geography and across eleven time zones,” said Rohr, who noted NCH has concentrated on bringing “some of the most productive farmland in the world back into productive capacity.”

NCH is today one of the largest Western investors of institutional capital in farmland and agribusiness assets in the region. Rohr says the quality of these assets wasn't the only attraction; they’re also ridiculously undervalued.

Before the Bolsheviks, this land constituted the Old World’s breadbasket. And after being mismanaged and relatively neglected for the better part of the 20th Century under the Soviets, Rohr says the new, progressive governments under whose stewardship this agricultural treasure fell opened the door to Western investors.

But Western investors have been slow to throw in, in cases preferring to cast lots with other emerging markets like Brazil and China—in no small measure due to innacuracies perpetuated by Western media, according to Rohr.

Consequently, NCH has been able—by direct purchase or lease—to acquire, aggregate and operationalize roughly 700,000 hectares of prime farmland in Russia, Ukraine and other Eastern European countries at a fraction of their actual value.

In this candid “Ag Chat” interview, George Rohr will:

• Outline NCH's approach to agriculture investment in Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe

• Provide an overview of infrastructure and transport issues

• Address misconceptions with regard to property rights, transparency, governance, etc. facing prospective investors, and much more...

“You are going to see increasing diversification in [Russia and Ukraine] away from natural gas, oil and other harder natural resources as a source of foreign revenue toward agricultural commodities. This sector really is the sleeping giant for both countries,” said Rohr.

“There are great returns to be made from riding the elevator from the fourth subbasement to the ground floor,” he added, noting the market is maturing, and opportunities like this don't come often or last forever.

Listen to Part 1.

Download a transcript of Part 1.

Listen to Part 2.

Download a transcript of Part 2.

Ag Chat is an executive interview series featuring the business experts, investors and entrepreneurs at the forefront of sustainable agriculture. Each episode explores the trends, technologies and drivers shaping the world of sustainable agriculture today.

Marc Dresner works closely with IBC Life Sciences as a communication lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research industry. He may be reached at Follow him @mdrezz.