BUSINESS DAY: Silos ready for record maize harvest

As farmers in SA get down to harvesting a record maize crop, operators of grain storage facilities say there is enough space to accommodate the bumper haul.

President of the Grain Handling Organisation Annatjie Loio said there was adequate capacity for the local crop, most of which would be stored in silos. Additional silos were being built while some of the crop had already been booked for exports.

According to the Crop Estimates Committee, the maize crop output was expected to be 101% more than in 2016. The expected commercial maize crop has been set at 15.631-million tonnes.

Earlier in 2017, Brazilian farmers had to resort to storage bags as a quick-fix solution to stockpile their bumper crops of soybeans and maize, while in 2016, US farmers also faced the prospect of running out of storage supplies for maize, soybeans, and wheat.

Afgri Grain Management operations manager Jan De Sousa said Afgri operated silos across SA’s main maize-planting regions. The company frequently received its own crop estimates from farmers within the regions, which helped with effective storage management processes.

“In the event that additional storage is needed, we look at instructions for dispatching the grain,” he said.

Afgri’s silos are located in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and parts of Limpopo. Farmers deliver their crop to the silos shortly after harvest to avoid risks such as fire, theft and contamination.

On arrival at the storage facilities, the crops are graded, weighed and put it into the silos. Storage bins keep between 22,000 tonnes and 160,000 tonnes of the crop, which can be stored for up to seven years. Clients — who may be farmers, traders and cooperatives — have the option of daily storage, short-term or longer-term storage, with equivalent payment variations.

The head of economic and agribusiness research at the Agricultural Business Chamber, Wandile Sihlobo, said while there were facilities to accommodate the surplus crop, demand for white maize outside SA’s borders was weak and could lead to prices remaining at low levels.

He said that SA exported about 80% of its white maize to neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, which were also expecting a bumper maize harvest.

“White maize prices are down because we can’t find export markets.”

On Thursday, the spot price of white maize was R1,728 a tonne form R3,704 a tonne in January, while the spot price for yellow maize was R1,865 a tonne from R3,365 a tonne.

Absa agricultural economist Conce Moraba said that in addition to the expected adequate storage capacity, the transportation of grain to export markets by road and rail was also expected to go smoothly, through the Durban and the East London Port Terminals.

Agriculture offers exciting career opportunities

The agricultural sector offers young people exciting career opportunities to leverage new innovative ways of farming to care for the food security of future generations.

The agricultural sector is an exciting and challenging global industry that offers young people far more job opportunities than planting seeds and rendering animals.

“The industry needs young people in that young people are key players in increasing farmer visibility and continue to rapidly leverage on current and developing innovative technology as well as collaborate with traditional farmers to produce and position farming as the future solution towards ensuring food security,” says Prudence Motseo, ‎HR Systems and Admin Manager at AFGRI Operations.

Furthermore, this also applies to careers in our sector, as education in agriculture has evolved and is aligned with developed trends and innovative ways of farming; enabling the development of diverse players, such as small and large scale farmers facing economic challenges locally and globally.

“A career at AFGRI is broad in nature and offers endless range of opportunities in career choices within the agricultural sector,” says Motseo. “Within Agri Services, our subsidiaries, Grain Management, Equipment, Unigro Financial and Insurance Service and Harvest Time Investments, jobs range from farm workers, crop scientists, researchers, financial analysts, agronomists and product developers, including support functions such as Finance, Human Resources, Legal and Marketing to name but a few.”

There are also new developing trends in career opportunities in the sector. Motseo says skills that will be needed in future include that of technical advisors, qualified artisans, strategists, business development managers, innovation specialists, hydrologist, lab technicians and entomology product specialists.

Qualifications needed to further a career in agriculture will vary according to the path that you intend to pursue. For instance, a career in grain management may require a qualification in agricultural crop science, grain grading and management; at Equipment and Unigro job opportunities vary between artisans and Relationship managers as scarce critical skills.

AFGRI also offers opportunities in Africa. We currently operate at Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ghana, Botswana, Congo, Mozambique and Australia. We envisage growth of our business, which may create opportunities in more countries.

Motseo says a career in agriculture will suit individuals with passion and dedication for agriculture, driven by innovation and possess an attitude of selflessness in caring for future generation’s food security.

– end –

The table below shows possible options in a career in agriculture. Qualifications will vary accordingly. contains additional information.


Grain Management Equipment
·         Agricultural Crop Science

·         Grain Grading and Management

·         Artisans

·         Apprentices Technicians

Harvest Time Financial Services and Insurance
·         Business Management

·         Training and Development

·         CSI

·         Financial Planning and Management

·         Organisational Health and Wellness

·         Insurance Management


Ensuring a sustainable agricultural sector

Farmers face many complex decisions in order to ensure the sustainability of their enterprises and the food security of the nation.

In a panel discussion as part of the Nation in Conversation series at Nampo Harvest Day, Johan Geel, Group CFO of AFGRI, said to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the agricultural sector farmers need to diversify and adapt to advanced technology to improve their crops.

“To succeed in an increasingly complex sector, farmers need sound financial planning as the sector is capital intensive, return on investments are generally low and it takes between 7 to 9 months for most crops to deliver an income,” says Geel. Added to that, modern technologically advanced equipment requires an adequately trained labour.

Consensus amongst the panellists is that the current debt ratio of farmers at 35% is acceptable, even though the debt burden is on a record high at R145 billion. Geel says the expected bumper crop in the current season will help farmers to pay back their debt quickly. “However, careful financial planning is needed given the economic and political uncertainties. The recent sovereign downgrades by ratings agencies will have a negative impact on the farming sector as the downgrades will result in higher interest rates, which in turn means that less capital will be available. A weaker South African currency will also mean a significant increase in the price of imported goods such as equipment, diesel, insecticides and fertiliser.”

Geel says the current political uncertainty is not factored into financing decisions. “Companies like AFGRI need to discount the political noise in favour of expertise and the ability of the farmer and the land to produce a positive return when evaluating financing to farmers. We have to stick to the facts.”

Diversification of products will also ensure the long-term sustainability of a farming enterprise as well as the agricultural sector, says Geel. “Farmers with healthy balance sheets are those who have successfully diversified their operations. Diversification presents its own challenges, but in AFGRI’s experience established businesses that can add land cost effectively can be successful.”

The agricultural sector can play a very important role in job creation, but what is needed is better training as more and more, workers are expected to operate high-tech equipment. This adoption of high-tech equipment assists in diversification and efficiencies.

A sustainable agricultural sector will go a long way to trigger economic growth and in creating employment. “Some agricultural sectors are very labour intensive and the development and progress of the small towns are directly link to the well-being of the agriculture sector,” says Geel.

Innovative technology contributes to increased food production

Mechanisation and technological advances are crucial in the agricultural sector to improve crop yields through better efficiency and accuracy to feed the ever-growing population. Patrick Roux, MD of AFGRI Equipment, discusses the latest advances in equipment and highlights areas where technological innovation is already making a difference in the sector.

Mechanisation and technological advances in agriculture create new opportunities to improve food security by ensuring greater efficiency and accuracy in farming techniques to feed the ever-growing population.

Patrick Roux, Managing Director of AFGRI Equipment, the largest John Deere dealership network in Southern Africa and Western Australia, says implementing innovative technology and artificial intelligence will greatly improve the world’s agricultural production.

“From machinery that can inject fertiliser at precise depths, smart water management systems to precision drones, the use of technology will greatly impact the availability and affordability of food.”

Across the world, agribusinesses are developing new technologies for the agricultural sector and the growth in the market for agricultural machinery is predicted at 7% per annum over the next three years.

Areas where technological innovation is already taking place – and making a difference – are higher crop productivity, decreased use of water, fertiliser and pesticides, which also contribute to lower food prices.

Modern farm machinery allows farmers to control his entire operation through the cloud through telematics that send information about how machines are being used and crop information to smart phones.

Roux predicts that further developments in artificial intelligence farming and precision farming techniques to ensure increased production to meet the demands of the growing population.

“With mounting pressure on food systems and environmental concerns, the agricultural sector will lead the way in implementing technology to ensure food security for a rapidly growing world population, which by 2050 is predicted to reach 9,7 billion.”

“In 2015, research by the Population Reference Bureau included only one African country, Nigeria, in its top ten most populous countries. The Bureau predicts that by 2050, Nigeria, DRC and Ethiopia will feature in the top ten list. This rapid population growth is due to improved life expectancy as economic growth rates increase,” concludes Roux.

AFGRI to participate in Nation in Conversation and Nampo Harvest Day

AFGRI is proud to once again be a platinum sponsor of the Nation in Conversation series that will be broadcast live from the Nampo Harvest Day taking place in Bothaville from 16 to 19 May

 AFGRI, the leading agricultural services company with a core focus on grain commodities and a vision of driving food security across Africa, is proud to be a platinum sponsor of the Nation in Conversation discussions that will be broadcast live during the four days of the agri-industry’s premier event, Nampo Harvest Day.

From 16 to 19 May, local and international farmers as well as companies servicing the sector will gather in Bothaville in the Free State for the annual trade show. Nampo Harvest Day celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and is gaining in popularity amongst farmers to avail themselves of the opportunity to interact with experts in various agricultural fields and to benefit from their insights.

AFGRI has partnered with the preeminent agricultural trade show for the eighth consecutive year and has been involved with the country’s respected agri talk show, Nation in Conversation, for the past four years. The series has grown in stature and importance with leading players in the industry and mainstream economy participating in the discussions.

During the festival, viewers can look forward to daily panel discussions in front of a live studio audience on the following subjects: Finances: Labour, Diversification & Financial Planning; From Commodity to Trademark; The Role of Advisors, Technology and Soil Health; Female Role Players in Agriculture; Focus on Youth: A future in Agriculture; The Political Will and Successful Transformation Initiatives.

These riveting subjects will be facilitated by an equally reputable line up of show hosts and guests such as Carte Blanche’s Derek Watts; 702 and CapeTalk’s Eusebius McKaiser; former Nation in Conversation guest anchor and media expert Jeremy Maggs; CEO of Galileo Capital, Theo Vorster; Money Talk host Bruce Whitfield; Nation in Conversation co-anchor Mpumelelo Mkhabela and Power FM’s personality Andile Khumalo, with former politician and current chairman of the In Transformation Initiative, Roelf Meyer, as a special guest.

Among the stakeholders featured and represented on this series will be representatives from industry thought leaders like AFGRI, Senwes, Monsanto, Engen, Nedbank and the Department of Agriculture.

This year’s production of Nation in Conversation at Nampo Harvest Day is made possible by the following partners: AFGRI, Engen, Grain SA, Monsanto, Nedbank and Senwes, in association with Hinterland and Imperial Isuzu.

AFGRI clients will have the opportunity to engage with AFGRI at the Nation in Conversation VIP lounge. For more details and programme information, please visit the Nation in Conversation website at and download the app to join the conversation.

AFGRI Agri Services will, once again, be on proud display at NAMPO at stand number 119 and 120 in the NAMPO Hall.

Please come and visit the AFGRI stand and to see what is on offer from our Agricultural Services divisions which includes Grain Management, Equipment, UNIGRO and Harvest Time Investments. Our Hinterland joint venture will also be on display at NAMPO, where a host of goods can be bought from the retail outlet. Be sure to visit our stand as you pass by.

On Wednesday 17 May, certain members of the Vodacom Bulls rugby team will be at the stand, giving you an opportunity to interact with the players and get a sough-after autograph.

AFGRI Equipment Australia scoops sought after accolade

AFGRI Equipment Australia, a subsidiary of South African-based AFGRI, and the largest distributor of agricultural machinery in South Africa and Western Australia, has been awarded the status of 2017 Platinum Medallion Dealer by John Deere Financial Limited in Australia and New Zealand.

“The Platinum Medallion is awarded to a dealer for achieving excellence through their finance portfolio based on volume financed and strike rate and AFGRI Equipment Australia is one of three dealers who can boast this achievement for 2017,” says Patrick Roux managing director at AFGRI Equipment.

AFGRI Equipment Australia has also achieved Platinum status in 2014 for achieving goals set by John Deere on the penetration rate and large finance volumes during a calendar year. AFGRI Equipment Australia was ranked bronze in 2015 after the criteria for the medallion awards were revised in 2015.

The dealership bounced back in 2016 to achieve a Silver Medallion, and topped it with the Platinum Medallion in 2017.

Coetzee believes the acquisitions of Jolly & Sons in 2015, followed by Greenline AG in 2016 by AFGRI Equipment Australia contributed to its success in 2017. “The acquisitions over the past 18 months have added to the portfolio volume for AFGRI as well as afforded them the scale to continue to provide high quality service to a growing finance portfolio,” he said.

AFGRI Equipment recently announced yet another acquisition in Australia, that of Rattan & Slatter.   “ The acquisition was made to further our well-established mission of being the preferred supplier of premium agricultural equipment, services and solutions,” concluded Roux.

AFGRI Equipment’s latest offerings on show at Arlington Tillage Day

Centurion, 20 April 2017 – AFGRI Equipment is once again proud to be part of the Arlington Tillage Farmers Day taking place on 20 April. For the past couple of years, AFGRI Equipment, through its branch in Bethlehem and Marquard, has supported the Arlington Farmers Union by showcasing the latest high quality agricultural equipment.

This year will be no different and we look forward to giving our valued clients the opportunity to test the latest high quality, technologically advanced equipment we offer.

On show from AFGRI Equipment will be a variety of premium equipment to view and experience. (more information on the equipment to attract clients, it can include prices, especially if they are offering “special show prices”). Clients will be given the opportunity to test drive the equipment/tractors.

In the last three years, interest in the Arlington Tillage Farmers Day has grown and it is now one of the largest agricultural equipment demonstrations in the Free State.

BUSINESS MEDIA MAGS: Farming For The Future

Big business is putting big effort into securing the world’s food supply – “sustainability” is the new “eco-friendly”, reports Trevor Crighton.

The farming industry requires a system that produces higher volumes of a better-quality product without compromising on price, and which quantifiably improves the environment in which is it is produced… Does this sound like a dream business scenario? Well, it’s one that two South African corporate giants are well on their way to implementing.

“Sustainability” is a 21st-century business buzzword – easy to promise, but challenging to deliver on. For many corporates, it’s a catch-all term for recycling and cutting down on energy consumption, but there are few industries in which it delivers such tangible, long-lasting effects as farming and food supply. With the earth’s population currently at seven billion – and set to top nine billion by 2050 – food security is a truly global issue, and both corporates and consumers are paying more attention to the provenance and supply of their daily bread.

The decline in the nutritional value and quality of food has caught popular attention as consumers around the world focus more on their own environmental footprint and what they put into their bodies. This, in turn, is forcing companies to take a more environmentally savvy approach to producing food.

Taking sustainability seriously

South African retailer Woolworths, for example, launched its Good Business Journey programme in 2007, with an eye on consolidating all of the company’s environmental and social responsibility work under a single umbrella. More than a nod to sustainability as a box to tick on the corporate citizenship checklist, the Farming for the Future element of the journey aims to help farmers to grow quality produce while protecting the environment, preserving natural resources and reducing dependence on synthetic fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, without adding to the price the consumer pays.

“Our suppliers have been incredibly supportive of our Farming for the Future programme, as they have seen the benefits: improvements in soil health, reductions in water usage and reductions in inputs such as chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers, with associated cost savings,” says Woolworths’ head of sustainability, Justin Smith. “They have also seen biodiversity improvements on their farms, which they really are passionate about, as stewards of the land.”

Sustainability is about rethinking processes, from what to produce and how to produce it, through the packaging, delivery and sales processes. For example, Woolworths’ participation in the Water Stewardship Programme with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) seeks to protect the most important natural resource required for farming: water. Working directly with its producers – such as Bergsig Wines – sees the company participating in the safeguarding of ecosystems, with a view to long-term production.

Furthermore, the retailer’s Enterprise Development Programme is focused on bringing emerging suppliers into the supply chain, with 50 partners currently on the journey.

Organic production plays a role in the Good Business Journey, but it’s just one element, according to Smith. “The demand for organic products is fairly stable in South Africa, but we are certainly seeing consumers placing more importance on understanding where their food has come from, and how it was produced.”

“Organic farming works really well for certain crops in certain climatic conditions, but if it is applied in the wrong climatic areas, it can require more land and water resources to produce the same yield as conventional farming. This is why we developed the Farming for the Future programme, to take the best parts of organic and conventional approaches into a structured programme that does not add any cost to the consumer.”

A bonus delivered by the Good Business Journey has been a saving of R280 million for the company over the last five years, thanks to reductions in the use of energy, water, fuel and packaging. The plan for the next five years has seen the company establish new targets across eight key focus areas: ethical trade, energy, water, waste, sustainable farming, transformation, social development, and health and wellness.

A streamlined approach

While agricultural services and processing company Afgri is not directly involved in farming, the group has also become increasingly aware of the need for a focus on sustainability. Looking inwards, Afgri’s focus has been on the environmental streamlining of three core operations: factories, silos and mechanisation stores.

Energy supply has become increasingly crucial in South Africa, and with Afgri relying on a mix of coal for direct consumption and purchased electricity for production, responsibility demanded the introduction of sustainable solutions. The company’s industrial foods businesses therefore introduced a number of programmes aimed at reducing electricity consumption and bringing down costs. These interventions range from operating outside peak hours to introducing solar heating for non-essential hot water, applying heat transfer principles to heat non-essential water, the automation of boilers and the introduction of variable-speed motors.

A focus on the efficient use of waste products from Afgri’s production processes has delivered innovative projects, such as one that sees solid waste being removed from effluent water at their Delmas processing plant before being released to an irrigation dam, which is used by a local farmer. Its milling operation was already a relatively efficient system, since most waste from production already has a secondary use. Chop and maize flour produced in the maize production process have commercial applications, as does bran, which is a byproduct of the wheat production process.

External processes also play a role in refining Afgri’s own standards. For example, its Nedan crushing and oil extraction business supplies oil to a large fast-food franchise, which applies its own strict standards in terms of quality and provenance. Nedan’s role in supplying products to FMCG conglomerates requires compliance with international food safety audit standards, which means it can export its products.

Afgri’s group sustainability manager, Marion Shikwinya, says the company is delighted to see “green thinking” becoming a pivotal part of the South African agricultural mindset. “Currently, the contribution of agriculture to climate change is significant. Agriculture is an emitter of greenhouse gases associated with land-use change, fertiliser use and enteric fermentation among livestock.”

Globally, agriculture accounts for around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, says Shikwinya, who concludes: “Agriculture will have to reduce these emissions substantially and contribute to climate change mitigation if it is to contribute to a green economy.”

Did you know?

One in three of the world’s hungry live in Africa, which remains the continent that does not grow enough food to feed its citizens. Yes, Africa has around 60% of the world’s uncultivated land.

Therefore, as a continent, Africa is ideally placed to capitalise on the availability of rich agricultural land and the associated opportunities for investment. This means Africa could play a pivotal role in meeting the planet’s agricultural needs in the future.

Greener communities

Beer producer SAB has focused its sustainability drive on assisting local farmers in producing the raw materials the company uses in its production processes – building local communities and cutting costs along the way.

One of the SAB Go-Farming Sustainable Agriculture Initiative’s most promising success stories is the Jacobsdal Pilot Project. Having spotted the barley-farming potential in the small Free State town, SAB assisted two local farmers in setting up farms. The brewer offered advice from inception – starting with soil analysis and upgrades, through to fertiliser recommendations and water monitoring. Overseen by Kimberley-based SAB agriculturalist Frikkie Lubbe, the pilot project has encouraged other farmers in the area to explore barley as a rotation crop option, bringing previously disadvantaged farmers into the SAB supply chain and helping the company to secure a sustainable, local source of one of its key raw ingredients.

Afgri also has two successful community-based projects: the Roundabout PlayPumps in Mpumalanga (a playground merry-go-round system that uses the energy of children at play to operate a water pump) and a borehole initiative in the Zama Zama informal settlement outside Pretoria. Afgri’s Marion Shikwinya says Roundabout PlayPumps were set up in five underresourced primary schools in Mpumalanga to supply learners and communities with access to clean and disease-free water. “Our mission in Zama Zama was the same – the community had no access to clean water until we provided a borehole,” she says.