President & CEO | Alliance Grain Traders Inc.
Canada's role in the world used to be summed up in the Biblical phrase "hewers of wood and drawers of water." And while the current natural-resources boom is generating economic growth, it could draw Canada back into its lowly former position.
Murad Al-Katib is resisting that trend, showing how we can extract far more value from our fabulous storehouse of resources.
Al-Katib is at the forefront of Canada's swift rise to become the world's largest producer and exporter of pulse crops: lentils, peas, beans and chickpeas. His company, Regina-based Alliance Grain Traders Inc., dominates global lentil exports, with a 40 per cent market share. Sales have exploded from $35 million in 2004 to $760 million in 2011. But rather than ship raw product abroad, Al-Katib has built a network of 12 domestic factories that add value through extensive processing. Technology plays a big role; for instance, Alliance uses optical sorters that separate lentils by colour to satisfy regional preferences.
You don't make it in the commodities business without obtaining the economies of scale needed to price your products competitively. Al-Katib did that by rapidly opening and acquiring plants, and leveraging the strong loonie to import productivity-enhancing machinery.
In January, he received the BASF Pulse Pioneer Award for "an extraordinary contribution to the development of the pulse industry." And he's still in pursuit of a target as big as the sky in his native Saskatchewan: "My goal is to become a globally recognized food processor."
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