Access to finance, training and entrepreneurship critical to building SA’s black farming community

Centurion, 15 April 2019 – This is according to AFGRI’s recently-renamed Lemang Agricultural Services, created specifically to train, develop and mentor new era farmers, and focused on the further development of commercial black farmers in South Africa, particularly large farmers ready to take the final steps towards becoming full-scale commercial farmers. This includes offering financial assistance, thus helping them to flourish in a sustainable manner.

“With food security becoming an increasing concern for South Africa and the rest of the continent, it’s important that agribusinesses such as AFGRI get behind our farmers, particularly black farmers wanting to take the next step into full commercialisation. And with agriculture being the key driver of food security, AFGRI is fully supportive of bringing a new generation of successful farmers into production to ensure the sector continues to thrive,” says Marion Shikwinya, who heads up Lemang Agricultural Services.

“We are very excited about the opportunities that agriculture offers, but there is a need to recognise the constraints that many new era farmers face. The first of these is the lack of access to affordable credit. Many are not able to access credit facilities to finance their operations, including state-of-the-art equipment and other new technologies required to increase production, and produce high-quality crops or livestock.”

Shikwinya adds that AFGRI – a leading agricultural services company with core competencies to enhance, support and guide the growth of agricultural enterprises – has a wide range of financial services that they are looking at adapting to support new era farmers.

Lemang itself has an enviable track record of success in assisting new era farmers, having trained and supported over 650 farmers in the past four years (in its previous capacity as Harvest Time Investments), resulting in over 18,400 hectares being planted, some 660 permanent jobs being created, and a total yield of 49,873 tonnes. On average, farm income has tripled in cases where Lemang has supported the farmer.

According to Operations Manager, Bankies Malan, the team can bring this track record to bear on assisting farmers overcome another stumbling block, which is the lack of access to information and training.

“Training – and access to the right information – is vital for farmers to succeed. Agribusinesses such as ours have huge role to play in ensuring our farmers are not only trained in the latest farming techniques but are also mentored and given relevant business skills. Knowing how to run a business is integral to growing a successful farming enterprise.”

Malan says that while many systems put in place to help black farmers have failed due to a lack of funding or skills, particularly in rural areas, farmers should also think more innovatively, and not simply wait for assistance.

An easy solution he believes could work is for smaller new era farmers in rural areas to form “study groups”, allowing them to learn from external experts, who could be invited to attend the sessions, and from one another, a major source of knowledge-sharing, at the same time.

However, critical to this kind of out-the-box thinking is a true desire to succeed as a farmer. “It takes real entrepreneurial spirit to set up this kind of initiative, but the benefits are huge, with farmers being able to tap into relevant knowledge when they need it, which will in turn inspire a spirit of independency and drive sustainable success.”

In fact, says Malan, entrepreneurial drive and a true passion for farming are foremost on the list of criteria for qualifying for the Lemang New Era Farmer Development Programme.

He adds that communication also has a role to play connecting farmers with one another and to support systems. “Modern mobile technology makes it so much easier to get farmers around the table to learn from one another and from others. In fact, it’s essential that we all capitalise on this technology, and explore better ways of connecting as a farming community.”

Malan believes that if such ecosystems are established and are fully connected – to each farmer in a specific area through the study groups, as well as to other groups around the country using affordable and readily-available mobile technology – this scenario could give rise to mega farming communities across South Africa.

“Imagine the power this will give new era farmers. With access to the right information when they need it, as well as access to training, mentoring and funding through companies like ours, they could be easily be fully integrated into the agricultural value chain.”

Until such time, though, Shikwinya and the team at Lemang Agricultural Services, are hard at work, spreading the word about their offerings and hoping to reach as many new era farmers as possible.



AFGRI Group Holdings and an investor consortium create a strategic commodity/grain storage platform to support growth and strengthen food security

Centurion, 8 April 2019 – AFGRI Group Holdings (“AGH”), the investment holding company with interests in food, agriculture and financial services related companies providing products and services to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security (collectively, the “AFGRI Group”), today announced the creation of a strategic grain storage platform vehicle in collaboration with a consortium of leading South African institutional investors to enable the growth of grain storage capacity in South Africa and on the continent and to strengthen food security in the region.

As background to the transaction, Chris Venter, the CEO of AGH, explains that in 2011 the AFGRI Group sold its debtors’ book to the Land and Agricultural Bank of South Africa (“Land Bank”) with a clear vision of gaining access to a stronger balance sheet and the ability to expand its lending capabilities to offer a broader base of financial support to farmers.

“Since then the AFGRI Group has substantially increased its debtors’ book, growing it more than fivefold in value from 2011. The number of loans to farmers has also increased considerably from 1,290 to 8,620 farmers. The Group has expanded its financial service offerings across all nine provinces, financing not only grain production but various other commodities. Through the recent acquisition of the South African Bank of Athens, we are today able to offer a wide range of additional banking products to farmers.”

Venter said that using a similar approach, the AFGRI Group is now pleased to announce the creation of a strategic storage platform vehicle, AFGRI Grain Silo Company Proprietary Limited (“AFGRI Grain Silo Company”) – which has the clear objective of expanding its current storage capacity of some 4,7 million tons to six million tons in the near future. “This will allow us to not only cater for grain storage, but to expand into the storage of other types of commodities,” says Venter.

Three new institutional investors have committed to invest alongside the Group and its current BEE employee partner, Izitsalo Employee Investments, in the platform and through this, to support AFGRI’s strategy for growth and food security. The three institutional investment partners are STANLIB Infrastructure Investments, Wiphold, and the Land Bank. This investment consortium will initially own storage facilities with a total value of R3,6 billion at inception.

Venter continued, “AFGRI Operations Proprietary Limited (“AFGRI Operations”) will manage the storage facilities on behalf of AFGRI Grain Silo Company in terms of an evergreen management agreement. This arrangement provides the strategic benefit of AFGRI’s excellent track record in managing storage operations, and deep experience of the sector.”

AFGRI Operations will continue to be a JSE Approved Storage Operator for all the grain silos, while the grain silos will continue to be JSE Approved Silos and JSE registered delivery points.

This transaction will assist AFGRI to achieve four strategic objectives, namely: (i) the creation of a strategic storage platform with a focus on expanding across Africa; (ii) partnering with reputable South African institutional investors; (iii) unlocking the value of AFGRI’s grain storage assets, the proceeds from which will be used to further expand AFGRI’s financial services reach and support for farmers; and (iv) entrenching AFGRI’s reputation as the foremost long-term services provider to farmers and the agricultural industry. The Group’s current 4,7 million tonne storage footprint consists of grain silos and bunker complexes throughout six provinces in South Africa.

“High-quality commodity storage and related services is in demand by our customers, and through the consortium, we aim to ensure that we enter new areas across South Africa and simultaneously grow capacity,” said Jacob de Villiers, MD of AFGRI Grain Management.

“For clients making use of our silo and bunker facilities, it is business as usual,” de Villiers indicated. Farmers and grain silo users will continue to experience AFGRI Grain Management’s proven expertise and track record on an ongoing and uninterrupted basis.”

The effective date of the transaction is 31 March 2019 and all suspensive conditions to the transaction have been fulfilled.




AFGRI commits R3 million to the establishment of the AFGRI Support Fund

Centurion, 5 March 2019 – AFGRI, a leading agricultural services company with core competencies to enhance, support and guide the growth of agricultural enterprises in South Africa and further afield, has launched a not-for-profit company to assist those in dire financial need involved in the agricultural sector in South Africa. The Fund will operate in the geographic areas of the country where AFGRI operates but won’t be limited to AFGRI clients.

Tinus Prinsloo, CEO of AFGRI, indicated that “We want to make a meaningful difference in the areas we operate in, aside from our service and product offerings, as there are times that people just need a partner who cares. We have therefore established this Fund into which we have made an initial injection of R3 million.”

He went on to say that he hoped that those so inclined would also contribute towards the Fund, which has been established in order to extend financial support to beneficiaries in the agricultural sector, focusing on those operating within the AFGRI ecosystem and geographic areas. The aim is to grow the Fund to be sustainable into the future as a beacon of agricultural community support.

“The perils of farming are enormous, and to have an organisation that cares enough to lend a helping hand can mean a great deal,” said Jacob de Villiers, the CFO of AFGRI.

Farming is a profession with a myriad of moving parts and possibly thousands of decisions to be made and just as many possible impacts to manage. There are times that no matter how dedicated, diligent and committed a farmer is, the elements step in and upset the apple cart. During the past two years farmers across South Africa have had to contend with drought conditions, hail, foot and mouth disease, armyworm invasions and wildfires, to name but a few.

AFGRI stepping in to help is not a recent development but has been part of the company’s ethos since it was established over 95 years ago. More recently, in 2016 during one of the worst droughts ever recorded in South Africa, AFGRI donated R5 million in drought aid to farmers. It also offered a zero increase on storage fees for a period, knowing that these gestures would assist farmers caught in the grips of the drought.

Similarly, in 2017 AFGRI partnered with farmers in the Free State and the KZN Midlands, as far afield as Bothaville, Koppies, Danielsrus and Tweeling, to facilitate a process through which large-scale hay donations could be sent to farms in the Thornhill district in the Eastern Cape. The donation amounted to more than a 1 000 round bales. AFGRI Grain Producers further donated maize for trading, using the proceeds to support the project.

The AFGRI Support Fund is not a development fund or a sponsorship vehicle. “Within our service offering, we have Lemang Agricultural Services, a dedicated division focusing on new-era farmer development. Our Fund will focus purely on assisting people in need, based on the merits of each case,” explained Prinsloo.

De Villiers, along with Marion Shikwinya and Ross Simmonds, all senior executives within the AFGRI Group, are the directors of the Fund and will be responsible for the evaluation and disbursements of requests received. “As mentioned, the Fund is registered as a not-for-profit company, with all contributions treated in terms of the Tax Act and thus donations will be deductible,” said de Villiers.

Throughout the year AFGRI will make use of a host of events to raise money for the Fund, including golf and farmers days, as well as ad hoc opportunities, and will also be accepting contributions from external individuals and organisations. AFGRI itself has committed to an annual donation of a minimum of R3 million. In addition, AFGRI will continue to have an account into which farmers are able to donate grain for sale, the proceeds of which will be transferred to the Fund account.

When asked what drove the establishment of the Fund, Prinsloo explained that “We know all too well the publicised issues and get asked by so many to assist. We also want to ensure that support reaches those in need as much too often donations don’t reach those who truly need them.”

“We want control and to have a focused approach,” added de Villiers, saying that the Fund will be audited and reports published, not only to AFGRI’s shareholders but also to those donating money.

AFGRI is committed to and follows strict corporate governance procedures and the AFGRI Support Fund is no different. “Both the impact and the measurement of the difference we are making will be noted with the purpose of continual improvement to safeguard a growing and sustainable Fund.

“This will ensure that financial support is available to all involved in agriculture in the long-term. In this way AFGRI will continue to make a positive impact on the agricultural sector in our country, just as we have for the past nine decades and more,” concluded de Villiers.

Two e-mail addresses have been created for those in need of financial support to apply for funding, which are and Please note that all requests will be subject to certain criteria, and due process. More information will be placed on the AFGRI website ( from mid-March onwards.

Exciting new finance solution for emerging farmers and Agric Part-time contractors

John Deere Financial, Zanaco, Zambia National Farmers Union and AFGRI closed an alliance which is marked as a milestone in Zambia enabling access to finance for emerging famers. John Deere Financial has been introduced as a dedicated solution to meet the finance needs of emerging farmers for the acquisition of John Deere equipment.

This collaboration provides customers of AFGRI Zambia, (the authorised John Deere dealer in Zambia) a unique finance solution to acquire John Deere equipment.

Benefits of John Deere Financial:

 Access to professionals who understand John Deere equipment and the various business segments John Deere serves. This is now combined with a financial solution to suit the specific business needs of emergent farmers.

  • Access to a broad range of financial structures, flexible payment options, and competitive rates through the alliance with Zanaco.
  • Competitive interest rates subsidized with up to 3%. Terms & conditions apply.
  • Access to exceptional service from a dedicated team of professionals at Zanaco and AFGRI providing a one-stop shopping experience.
  • Asset backed finance (additional collateral not necessarily a requirement).
  • An added benefit is that a free fertilizer spreader is given to each purchaser if he purchases a tractor and a minimum of two implements through JDF