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An eclectic career path

Marcos Jank has been a professor at USP, worked at the IDB, and president of UNICA; today he is an executive at BRF

Marcos Jank: a solid academic and entrepreneurial career

niels andreasMarcos Jank: a solid academic and entrepreneurial careerniels andreas

Marcos Sawaya Jank, 51, was born on a farm in Descalvado in the interior of São Paulo State, and was raised there until he turned 18. Jank is a specialist in agribusiness and bioenergy, and his résumé lists an impressive background in academia and business. He left his family farm, which produces oranges, milk, beef cattle, corn, and chicken using irrigation and state-of-the-art technologies, to study agronomic engineering at the Luiz de Queiroz College of Agriculture (ESALQ) at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Piracicaba. He had planned to return to the farm to work in the business with his father and brothers, but when he graduated from college in 1984 he decided to study agricultural and industrial economics. He went to France, where he earned a master’s degree in European agriculture policy from the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies at the Montpellier Agronomic Institute.

He returned to Brazil in 1989 and began teaching agribusiness management at ESALQ. “At the time Brazil was still closed to the international market.” The country had an ultraprotectionist policy and focused mainly on coffee,” he says. Jank earned a PhD in administration at the USP School of Economics, Business Administration and Accounting (FEA), which he completed in 1996. After 13 years at ESALQ, FEA invited him to teach at the Institute of International Relations, also at USP, where he spent seven years and also worked as a coordinator of research and post-graduate studies.

During his career as a professor, Jank published scientific articles, books, articles in journals and periodicals, and lectured in Brazil and abroad, which enabled him to expand the range of his activities. In 1999, at the invitation of then-minister Celso Lafer, he served as special adviser in the Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade for eight months. “Lafer met me while I was lecturing at the World Trade Organization,” he explains. When Jank left that post, he went to the United States for post-doctorate work on US agriculture policy at Georgetown University in Washington and at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where he spent almost four years. During that time, he also taught as a visiting professor at both universities and worked at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

“Something strange happened when I presented my post-doctorate paper in 2002,” Jank recalls. Roberto Rodrigues, former Secretary of Agriculture of the São Paulo State Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, attended the presentation and had conceived the idea of setting up a center for studies of international issues in agribusiness; this eventually became the Institute for International Trade Negotiations (ICONE). Jank founded and was president of ICONE from 2003 to 2007, when he left to take over as president of the Brazilian Sugar Cane Association (UNICA). He remained in that post until 2012, when he founded Plataforma Agro, an agribusiness consulting firm. In September 2013, he took on a new challenge: Jank became Global Director of Corporate Affairs at BRF, a company formed by the merger of Sadia and Perdigão. “My life has led me into various areas of agribusiness and it is a privilege for me to be able to see them from close up and from different angles.”