Greater access for New Zealand to Asian food markets through research and knowledge exchanges between Massey University and a Thai food conglomerate is on the cards. The prospect of stronger links with Thailand in the agrifood sector was championed in a speech by one of Thailand’s most successful business leaders, Dhanin Chearavanont. He was recognised by the University with a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) at a ceremony at the Manawatū campus. The degree was in recognition for his services to international business and philanthropic activities.
Dr Chearavanont, 75, is chairman and chief executive officer of the Charoen Pokphand Group (CP Group), a conglomerate with core businesses in agrifood, retail and telecommunications that employs more than 300,000 people worldwide, with total revenues of more than $US 41 billion.
Speaking through a translator at the ceremony, Dr Chearavanont said he would “advocate for the immediate formation of a joint committee between the University and the CP group to work out a plan for collaboration. CP will definitely gain from the knowledge that Massey University can dispense, but hopefully CP can also provide some knowledge about the Asian market, consisting of more than three billion people.”
“I am confident that we can assist New Zealand in distributing value-added goods to Asia,” he told the audience of around 100 senior agrifood, business and food science academics as well as Massey alumni, business leaders and members of the Thai community.
Dr Chearavanont also commented on the similarities between the CP Group and Massey University, saying they both work across the agrifood value chain from farming to processing, manufacturing and distribution. “We owe it one another to see how we can work together.”
New Zealand’s former Ambassador to Thailand Tony Lynch, orator at the ceremony, said Dr Chearavanont is widely regarded as an exemplar businessman in international trade, and has also made an enormous contribution to improving the standard of living for Thai people in the agrifood sector.
“His achievements are due to his international vision, his astute leadership and his strong family and corporate values,” said Mr Lynch, who is the current Deputy Secretary of Defence for the Ministry of Defence.
Dr Chearavanont was overwhelmed by the recognition, saying: “This day will forever live in my memory.”
Chancellor Chris Kelly told the audience it was an “historic occasion”, being the third conferment of an honorary doctorate to an international recipient by the University. The first, in 2002, was an Honorary Doctorate of Sciences awarded to the King of Thailand H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej. The second was in November last year when Madame Peng Liyuan, First Lady to the President of the People\'s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, received an Honorary Doctorate of Literature.
Dr Chearavanont’s father founded the family seed business in 1921 and it has grown into the CP Group of today, with investments in 17 countries, including China, India, Russia and Turkey, and offices in 14 other countries including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Italy. CP Group was the first foreign investor in China after the economy was reopened to outside investment in late 1970s. In 2007, it founded Thailand’s first and only work-based learning higher education institute, the Panyapiwat Institute of Management.
He was the first person to implement the poultry integration business in Thailand and South East Asia and is credited for introducing modern agricultural development to emerging economies.
He has been acknowledged by Forbes as one of the world’s billionaire philanthropists for several years running and was chosen by Forbes Asia as Businessman of the Year in 2011. He is the founding and current president of the China Association of Overseas Chinese Entrepreneurs, an official business organisation established by the State Council of the Chinese government.
Dr Chearavanont advocates as the CP Group’s guiding principle the \"Three-Benefit Principle\" that reflects the leveraging of benefits to all stakeholders in a sustainable business enterprise, namely benefit to the country, the people and the company.
Before the ceremony, he toured Massey\'s Food HQ, Food Pilot and Hopkirk Institute. After his conferment, he addressed guests at a reception at the Riddet Complex.