Singapore’s Agrocorp seeds jobs in Canada with $50-million of direct investment
What began as one man’s idea to follow in his father’s footsteps later turned into one of the largest global trading companies in the world; One that has invested close to $50 million in Canada.
Vishal Vijay, head of business development at Singapore-based Agrocorp, says his father started the company 30 years ago when he moved from London, England to Singapore to carry on the family trade tradition that his grandfather started.
“Singapore was establishing itself as a centre for trade then,” Vishal Vijay says. “The inspiration to start a business there came from within the family.”
Singapore-based Agrocorp specializes in trading in pulses (dried edible seeds such as chickpeas, lentils and beans), wheat, rice, oilseeds, sugar, cotton animal feed and nuts. It has grown from humble beginnings to an international company with more than 500 employees across 24 offices and factories in 15 countries, including Canada.
Agrocorp’s investment in Canada translates into jobs for Canadians and new business for Canadian farmers across the country.
As one of the largest agricultural exporters in the world, Canada was the perfect place for Agrocorp to expand its operations.
In 2010, Vijay Iyengar, Vishal Vijay’s father and Agrocorp founder, was playing golf with the then Canadian ambassador in Singapore, David Sevigny, and mused about the possibility of Agrocorp expanding into Canada and investing in the Prairies.
The ambassador introduced Vijay Iyengar to CN Rail, the big North American transcontinental railway operator, which helped Agrocorp identify a suitable site along their rail lines in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan to build Agrocorp’s first plant.
Today, Agrocorp buys around 2 million tonnes of Canadian crops directly from local farmers or companies and exports its products around the world.
“It’s important for us to invest in countries that will support and engage us,” Vishal Vijay says. “Canada has been really good at that.”
The company that brings in more than $4 billion in revenue has offices in Vancouver and Winnipeg and four processing plants in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
A fifth processing plant in Cut Knife, Saskatchewan is set to open in April, 2019, bringing with it as many as 10 jobs for the small community of 500 people.
This plant will be Agrocorp’s first investment in protein extraction and value-added food processing. It represents an important new revenue stream for the company and its growers.
Before Agrocorp invested in Cut Knife, the company held an information meeting in the community. Almost half of the town’s residents showed up.
“It was pretty incredible,” Vishal Vijay said. “In these small towns in Canada, the people are really interested and want to know what’s happening in the town.”
Vishal Vijay says Agrocorp won’t stop with the latest investment in Cut Knife. The company is already exploring more opportunities to invest in Canada.
As a company that exports all over the world, free trade agreements, including the new NAFTA and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), are crucial to facilitating the way it does business.
Agrocorp is starting to explore exporting more Canadian products to Malaysia and Chile, thanks to the CPTPP. Vietnam, another member of that Asia-Pacific region agreement, is already an important market for Agrocorp.
“The role of these trade agreements is so important,” Vishal Vijay says. “They help companies diversify and open up new revenue.”
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