Oscar Chemerinski, Director of the Agribusiness Department at the International Finance Corp. -- the commercial development arm of the World Bank Group -- gave this mini-interview at DM2008:
Q. What's your reaction to what you see on the floor among the booths of the hundred finalists?
A. We are very excited about the enthusiasm that the Development Marketplace generates.We are very glad to see the opportunities that are emerging from private sector players throughout the world to look at innovative ideas to develop the agribusiness sector.
Q. Do you see the winning projects translating into projects that deliver positive results?
A. By all means. We have the projects who will benefit from the Development Marketplace awards. But many of the others will also be able to tap into financing from other sources, given the preparation and work that has gone into them, and the underlying business principles of what is being proposed.
Q. What's IFC doing to help agricultural development on the commercial side?
A. We have scaled up our agricultural operations significantly over the past three years. We have tripled our investments in the agribusiness sector in the past four years. Total investments in FY 2008 in the sector were $760 million. If you were to look across the whole agricultural chains, which includes the retail and finance sides, our total investment reaches $1.3 billion. The combination of higher commodity prices and more attention by IFC and the World Bank Group translates into larger investments in the sector.
Q. How are governments in developing countries -- which traditionally have controlled agricultural programs -- responding to privately funded initiatives?
A. I see much more encouragement from governments in allowing the private sector to operate in agricbusiness. We see more willingness by governments to foster private investments in agribusiness. We see more women in agribusiness thrive.
Q. Recent World Bank research says agriculture needs a big push, especially in the least-developed countries. Meanwhile, World Bank estimates of world poverty have been substantially raised. How is the IFC reacting?
A. Agriculture was defined as one of pillars of the IFC three years ago -- one year before the food price crisis. We have a strong mandate to support commercially based agricultural development. One dollar investment in the agricultural sector has a much higher impact in reducing poverty than a dollar in any other area.