Agriculture’s workforce is ageing across the globe. Initiatives are needed to encourage more young people to get involved, particularly in pulses. Enter GPC Young Professionals. Jesse Sam reports.
The pulse industry has a people problem. And not just the pulse industry, but the global agriculture sector as a whole. The workforce is ageing and has long struggled to attract young people into the increasingly varied roles it needs to sustain itself.
With a growing global population to feed, along with commercial and environmental pressures to produce food more efficiently and sustainably, the world needs a more vibrant, highly-educated agricultural workforce.
Take the UK, for example. In 2016, the average UK worker was around 41 years old. But a government survey of the agriculture sector found that figure to be much higher. The median age of farm managers was 58 years and 40% of farm owners were aged over 65.
Go to Canada and it’s a similar story. Data from Statistics Canada shows that the average age of Canada’s farm operators is 56 years; the proportion of young operators is just 8.6%, which is even lower than it was five years ago.
And the trend extends beyond high income countries. India, for example, arguably the world’s most important pulse market, is watching its agrarian workforce age, despite being a young country overall.
According to reporting by DownToEarth, in 2016, the average age of an Indian farmer was 50 years (the median age in the country overall is just 28). More than two thirds of farm operators are aged between 41 and 60. And the next generation of graduates from agricultural universities are abandoning the sector, which is a major concern for future productivity. The trend is even more alarming when you consider that agriculture accounts for less than 0.5% of all undergraduate enrollments, despite making up nearly 20% of the country’s GDP.
Faisal Anis Majeed stands out as something of an anomaly against this statistical backdrop.
He is COO of his family’s pulses business in Pakistan, Bombi’s Group. When he graduated in 2010, he was determined to continue his family’s proud tradition in the pulses sector. More than a decade later, he serves as the President of the GPC Young Professionals [GPCYP] network, which he co-founded, and he is passionate about bringing more young people into an exciting and challenging industry.
“Every day of the week there are different challenges,” he says. “Sometimes there are problems with the crops; sometimes it’s a problem with shipping; or a problem with buyers, customs, or quality issues. You have to keep on your toes and match the pace of the game.”
Tala Mobayen feels the same. She is currently the Export Manager for Victoria Pulse Trading Corporation in Canada and another young leader in the pulses sector. “I've been working in the pulse industry for 10 years. And what I enjoy about it mostly is it's very dynamic. It's global. Any global challenges — whether it’s economic, social, or political — can affect us. So it's a very dynamic industry with a lot of challenges.”
Majeed and Mobayen are hoping to promote this progresive view of the pulse industry through the GPC Young Professionals Internship Program.
Launching its initial cohort in September 2022, the program is a unique learning experience that will provide participants with end-to-end exposure to the pulse value chain: from visiting farms to food and logistics centres, as well as learning about trading.
This year’s program will run in Canada, with interns travelling across Vancouver, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Toronto. It has heavyweight industry backing, in the form of Canadian Special Crops Association, Pulse Canada and the Canadian Grain Commission, making this a meaningful opportunity to develop industry contacts.
Majeed stresses what a valuable opportunity this is, even for existing pulse professionals with limited industry experience. “Even if you have started your career in the pulses industry and you've just graduated, it is an ideal programme for you because Canada is the largest origin of pulses. They are the largest growers and producers of pulses plus a lot of other commodities like oil seeds and wheat and other stuff which is going across the globe.”
This is not just an opportunity to learn about pulses, but also a chance to get to grips with the dynamics of the global agriculture industry. “The dynamics and supply chain remains the same for all commodities. If you understand the logistics, farming, origination, the planting and harvesting, and the whole supply chain behind pulses, it’s basically 80% of the industry you’ll understand,” says Majeed.
Mobayen also points out that this program is a window to the future of food as a whole, not just pulses. “It’s a chance to learn about the latest innovations in the industry. Pulses will be a major source of protein in the future; they have to play an important role in feeding the planet sustainably, and this will be a great opportunity to understand that dynamic from end to end.”
The most serious problems — from climate change to ageing populations — tend not to demand a lot of attention on a day-to-day basis.
Headlines about young people not going into farming or slowing productivity in the agriculture sector don’t write themselves. But these are serious issues with global ramifications.
You can’t create a workforce overnight. It requires concerted, thoughtful long-term planning, with engagement from government, industry, and educators. Mobayen is not overstating the case when she says the Young Professional’s internship program is about the future of food.
Opportunities like this can help raise the profile of pulses and attract talented young people into an important and rewarding career.
For more information email email@example.com
To apply, fill in the application form here by August 20
Young Professionals / Faisal Anis Majeed / Pakistan / Bombi’s Group / Tala Mobayen / Victoria Pulse Trading Corporation / Canada / Canadian Special Crops Association / Pulse Canada / Canadian Grain Commission
Disclaimer: The opinions or views expressed in this publication are those of the authors or quoted persons. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Global Pulse Confederation or its members.