Yuriy Kosiuk founded MHP in 1998 and has taken the company from humble beginnings to becoming the indisputable leader in the Ukrainian meat market. Despite owning some of Europe’s largest poultry farms, the company continues to grow and has ambitions to further shake up the global meat industry. Here, he explains the company’s innovative business model and what makes Ukraine the ideal location for meat production
What’s the origin story behind MHP?
I am a traditional post-Soviet Union student who got the opportunity to build his business and success from scratch in that messy situation. The Soviet Union was such a big empire and that change created massive opportunities for my generation to create something new – a new economy, a new lifestyle, a new country.
Why did you choose the poultry business?
I made that decision because Ukraine couldn’t feed itself at the time. We were maybe the fourth largest importer of meat in the world, but we had everything necessary to be a net exporter.
Your company has ambitions to become a leader in Europe. What are your targets for future growth?
Ukraine today is one of the best places for meat production and the generation of protein. We are one of the largest exporters of grain. That gives us the ability to convert grain to meat as the second stage of value addition. Our ambitions are quite big and today it seems to me that we can easily compete with the US and Brazilians on the international market. We are very competitive generally in the world because protein trading is growing and not many countries can generate efficient cost-per-kilo for protein. We are talking about all kinds of proteins and meats. We started our business after the US and Brazil and various EU countries, so our business model is completely different. As a late starter, we saw what worked best and had the ability to get the newest technology. We now have the power to invest hundreds of millions in the best technology, talent, food safety, control and quality. This is extremely important in today’s market. We have led these changes, and we now we would like to change European meat production and convert it to our model. We are here because our ambitions today are much more than just about making money; here we are building the future.
What would be one piece of advice you would give to EU investors?
I had a meeting with my friend who’s an investment banker in Ukraine. He told me a story about how he is selling one business and he had five potential buyers from the Netherlands, the UK, Germany and Sweden. I’m happy with this because they are competing with each other and it means they understand our risks and opportunities. They’re also quite comfortable with the conditions in the country. They’re looking at a lot of opportunities all over the world and choose Ukraine. Doing business here is safe and there are so many opportunities. There is no doubt that we have to make changes, but we have a lot of successful examples under the current law. We have successful, profitable, stable companies that are world leaders in their industries, despite the political situation. That’s the best example for the investors. If you’re a professional and your business model is right, you could be very successful here.
In 2017, it was announced that you were partnering with tech cluster Radar Tech and Agrohub to organize the MHP Accelerator for IT startups working on agricultural products. Can you tell me more about that project?
Our size has allowed us to bring in the best technology, invest heavily, undertake hundreds of experiments and choose the most successful managers. Maybe today we are the most technologically developed place in the world for the agricultural segment. Size and the ability to invest matter. We set up Agrohub because we would like to provide new opportunities for new generations of entrepreneurs to use MHP as the base for their success. It’s free for them. It’s our mission because they can change our country and the world in the future. It also produces opportunities for our company to gain new ideas and maybe be a part of their startups, to invest and help develop their businesses. Maybe we’ll both be successful. We took on 10 projects and we are really happy with the outcomes so far.
Is there room for German collaboration with your business?
We are on the London Stock Exchange, so anyone can invest. But beyond that, our doors are open to everyone. We are open to journalists, partners and competitors because maybe there are opportunities for them to learn from us. If they apply what they’ve learned, their improvement will create more competition and push us to be stronger or to find new ideas. That may be a point for potential cooperation. We are maybe the most open company in Ukraine, and even in Europe.
How would you like your country to be viewed in the EU?
We are the country of opportunities. Of course, we have heritage from the USSR, but we are the best place for investment. We have very interesting opportunities and companies are very welcome here.