Transnet and AFGRI Partner to Ensure Thriving agri-Terminals in South Africa’s ports

[Johannesburg: 21 November 2018] Transnet SOC Limited has announced its intent to enter into a fifteen-year concession agreement with AFGRI Operations (“AFGRI’) for the operation and maintenance of landside operations with Transnet Port Terminals. The agreement will focus on two strategic agri-ports in the country, the East London Grain Elevator in the Port of East London and the Durban Agri-Port at the Port of Durban.

This initiative between Transnet and AFGRI will breathe new life into the two terminals through refurbishment, funding, and marketing projects.

Agri-ports are regarded as strategic facilities for the country, impacting on critical needs such as food security, transformation and long-term growth within agricultural logistics.

The lack of capital investment, as well as a decline in market share, has pressed Transnet to look for a private sector partner to turn these facilities into integrated and efficient agrilogistic supply chain services. This will complement existing providers in Durban.

The fifteen-year contract with AFGRI will allow the company sufficient time to recoup its capital investment, which is currently required to give the terminals a face-lift and install the necessary processes to ensure efficiency.
In addition to this, AFGRI will be in charge of customer engagements, contracting maintenance, repair and overhaul of the terminals landside equipment and plants.

Transnet Port Terminal, among other things, will provide the funding needed to restore or reconfigure the quayside plant and equipment and provide efficient rail capacity for private sector partners.

The East London Grain Elevator, situated on the West Bank of the Port of East London, is the largest port based grain elevator in South Africa with a potential capacity of 720 000 tons per annum. Currently, the facility handles between 80 000 and 100 000 tons of grain per annum.

The East London agri-port is a natural market for maize export originating from the areas of Kroonstad, in the Free State and the servicing of the Eastern Cape milling industry. It also acts as an overflow terminal for the Port of Durban during peak harvesting seasons.

This partnership will also further strengthen Transnet’s road-to-rail strategy, which is already witnessing a slight volume increase in the Port of East London.

The Durban Agri-port is one of the three agri-bulk terminals in the Port of Durban; the other two terminals are operated by South African Bulk Terminals and Bidvest Bulk Terminals respectively.

The Port of Durban is known for its excellent road and infrastructure connections to inland provinces such as the Free State and Gauteng. The terminal has an installed capacity of 156 000 tons which translates to 1.8 million tons per annum of capacity assuming the product is turned every month of the year. Potential capacity at the terminal is projected to be between 600 000 to 700 00 tons per annum. The terminal also has the ability to handle wheat and soya bean imports as well as ad-hoc projects on request.

Chris Venter the CEO of AFGRI Group Holdings, the holding company of AFGRI, said: “This is a milestone agreement between Transnet and AFGRI and hugely beneficial to South Africa to ensure the agri-ports are effectively managed. We have decades of solid experience in dealing with logistics and the storage and movement of grain. This agreement supports our endeavours to nurture food security across the continent and we look forward to supporting Transnet at their agri-ports.”

Transnet’s Chief Business Development Officer, Gert De Beer said: “The proposed arrangement would create the platform for synergy between Transnet and the private sector in providing an integrated logistics solution into the Agri-market. The project offering will be designed to optimise direct developmental benefits as well as having significant impact on the broader Agri-sector, which will further unlock developmental benefits for the economy.”
Both AFGRI and Transnet Port Terminal will be in charge of planning and scheduling of landside and quayside operations, health and safety as well as legal matters. It is intended that the operations will be integrated from April 2019.

Issued on behalf of Transnet SOC Ltd

By: Mr Molatwane Likhethe, GM: Corporate and Public Affairs.

For more enquiries please contact:

Nompumelelo Kunene
External Communication
011 308 2384


KayaBizz interview with Marion Shikwinya, Lemang Agricultural Services

Listen: Marion Shikwinya, the head of Lemang Agricultural Services talks to Gugulethu Mfuphi, host of Kaya FM’s KayaBizz show, about this new offering from AFGRI, which is focused on assisting black farmers now ready to take the next step to becoming successful commercial farmers.

Classic FM interview with Marion Shikwinya, head of Lemang Agricultural Services (Michael Avery, Classic Business)

Marion Shikwinya, who will head up Lemang Agricultural Services, which will provide a focussed service in the further development of commercial black farmers in South Africa, speaks to Michael Avery of Classic Business  (Classic FM) about the venture. Lemang Agricultural Services has been created specifically by AFGRI Group Holdings (AGH) to support large farmers ready to take the final steps towards becoming full-scale commercial farmers. This includes offering financial assistance to these new commercial farmers, one of the benefits flowing from having access to a banking license following the recent regulatory approval of the Group’s acquisition of the South African Bank of Athens Limited, alongside existing financial services such as UNIGRO. Lemang Agricultural Services will be housed within AFGRI.

AGH and AFGRI announce structure to support mentorship and training of farmers

Centurion, 5 November 2018 – To better support farmers poised to become the commercial farmers of tomorrow, AFGRI Group Holdings (AGH) and its invested company focused on agriculture, AFGRI, have enhanced on a concept that has made a massive impact over the past five years in farmer development.

AGH, an investment holding company with interests in several food, agriculture and financial services related companies providing products and services to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security, has as its investment philosophy to create long-term value through targeted investments in four strategic pillars: agriculture, food, financial services and impact.

In support of its vision to contribute to sustainable food security, a full spectrum of investments forms the base of the Group, which ensures food producers, farmers and companies involved in agriculture have access to finance, insurance, storage, equipment and inputs, feeds, retail, processing of oils and grains, technology and sustainable farmer development.

“It is thus important that we foster an approach to developing the future generation of South Africa’s farmers that has impact, is meaningful, is sustainable and is useful to the farmers. It must also be geared towards ensuring food security, not only in our own country, but further afield,” said Chris Venter, CEO of AGH.

Venter added that a total of R90 million had been invested in farmer training and development and related CSI initiatives over the past four to five years, exceeding the Group’s commitment to the Competition Commission Tribunal.

He said that having viable black commercial farmers enter the agricultural sector is essential for the future of the country, as the population grows, and food demands increase. “These farmers will also create much-needed jobs and provide a welcome boost to the economy.”

The concept will see Harvest Time Investments (“HTI”), the entity created in 2012 to train, develop and mentor new era farmers, renamed Lemang Agricultural Services and housed within AFGRI as a focussed service in the further development of commercial black farmers in South Africa. Lemang Agricultural Services has been created specifically to support large farmers ready to take the final steps towards becoming full-scale commercial farmers.

This includes offering financial assistance to these new commercial farmers, one of the benefits flowing from having access to a banking license following the recent regulatory approval of the Group’s acquisition of the South African Bank of Athens Limited, alongside existing financial services such as UNIGRO.

Marion Shikwinya, who spearheaded AFGRI’s Harvest Time initiative that developed small scale farmers to the next level, will head up Lemang Agricultural Services to ensure these farmers now enter the market as successful, fully-established commercial farmers.

The Group has invested R60 million alone in farmer development and training over the past five years, with 825 farmers benefitting from the programme in some way. “In this time over 18 400 hectares of crops were planted, and we estimate that over 5 600 people have been supported by the income received, with over 660 permanent jobs and almost 1 000 seasonal jobs created,” said Shikwinya.

“We also assisted farmers in achieving higher turnover from their farms – on average they were achieving R11,4 million in turnover before assistance, which increased to R33,5 million. Crop yields for maize, soybean and sunflower seeds also improved substantially, with a 45% increase in maize yields, 66% in soybean and 50% in sunflower yields.”

Shikwinya added that through Lemang Agricultural Services, the aim is to ensure that the commercial farmers who require a partner in agriculture are understood and supported accordingly. “We want to extend the experience and record we have already established to bolster yields, crop diversity and job creation in a sector which has traditionally contributed significantly to gross domestic product in South Africa.”

She concluded by saying that the path forward should ensure that the next generation of commercial farmers are catered for according to their needs, and looks forward to her new role, working alongside the nation’s farmers to safeguard their success.

GroCapital Holdings Limited acquires Bank of Athens

PRETORIA, 18 September 2018 – GroCapital Holdings Limited (“GroCapital Holdings”) is pleased to announce that it has obtained all regulatory approvals for the acquisition of the South African Bank of Athens Limited (SABA). This follows an announcement made in March 2017 that GroCapital Holdings had acquired the National Bank of Greece Group’s stake in the South African Bank of Athens, corresponding to 99.81% of the issued share capital of the bank. The Minister of Finance and the Registrar of Banks have approved the acquisition and GroCapital Holdings as a bank controlling company. The Competition Tribunal has also approved the acquisition.

GroCapital Holdings shareholders will include AFGRI Group Holdings, Fairfax Africa Holdings Corporation (“Fairfax Africa”) and the Government Employee Pension Fund, represented by the Public Investment Corporation (“PIC”). In AGH, Fairfax Africa and the PIC, [SABA / the Bank] will benefit from a committed and stable shareholder base with proven track records in the financial sector.

“This marks a substantial milestone for the AFGRI Group, providing us the opportunity to expand our financial services product offering, including the acceptance of deposits and cross-border financial settlements and flows, while simultaneously gaining access to SABA’s expertise in alliance, business and international banking,” said Chris Venter, CEO of AGH. He added that the banking licence will deepen the Group’s reach in the financial services, agribusiness and foods sectors in South Africa. “Financial services are a key enabler for these sectors and will help businesses grow and so drive food security,” said Venter.

Venter went on to say that by leveraging services across the combined customer base of both entities, synergies could easily be extracted, and an entire banking bouquet would be on offer. SABA would benefit equally from opportunities to grow forex and commodity trade and finance activities in the agricultural sector.

“The Group brings decades of experience in agriculture and foods, coupled with a deep understanding of agricultural cycles. Our bad debts are negligible, and this is testament to our appreciation of these cycles,” he went on to add.

In Fairfax Africa and the PIC, SABA will benefit from a substantial and stable shareholder base with proven track records in the financial services sector. GroCapital Financial Services (“GroCapital”) focuses on corporates involved in agriculture and food production, offering debt origination, forex and commodity trading, specialised finance and broking services, while UNIGRO focuses an array of financial and insurance products and services to the farmer.

“The PIC is pleased with this transaction. It is a transaction that is in line with our investment mandate given by our client, the GEPF. This transaction fits well with our financial services strategy, which seeks to drive transformation in the agricultural finance sector. SABA’s extensive experience in the financial sector is a perfect vehicle to assist us in realising this strategy. We believe that provision of funding in the agricultural sector is an important component in the agriculture value chain and can greatly contribute to food security,” said Dr Daniel Matjila, CEO of PIC.

GroCapital and UNIGRO will benefit from an expanded product suite including savings, transaction and electronic banking and commercial loans. UNIGRO will be able to assess the feasibility of innovative offerings to service underbanked rural farmers, as an example. This is in addition to including deposits and debit and credit cards. Experience and existing customer relationships will be leveraged to the advantage of growth in SABA’s balance sheet and contribute to profitability by leveraging GroCapital’s experience in commodity, stock and debtor finance, bridging facilities, invoice discounting, trade finance and broking.

SABA was established and has been operational in South Africa since 1947. The bank offers comprehensive traditional business banking such as lending, transactional banking and treasury functions, as well as alliance, business and international banking. It is known for its focus on the development of market-leading, niche alliance transactional banking offerings in partnership with businesses.

“The alliance banking offering is extremely attractive and will benefit our customers in the longer term,” said Venter, going on to elaborate that the alliance banking capabilities provide an extended platform for financial services innovation and partnerships.

“Key for SABA are the growth opportunities that are presented by the transaction, as well as the ability to broaden our offering to our current loyal customers. Furthermore, the transaction contributes towards stabilisation of the banking sector in South Africa and the shareholding is being acquired by investors that support South Africa as an investment destination,” said Spiro Georgopoulos, CEO of SABA.

“We aim to assist in growing the current SABA business. Between the two entities there are sufficient skills, like-mindedness and financial services offerings to achieve this,” added Venter. He went on to say that current SABA customers can be assured that the current high levels of service and products offered by SABA will continue. AGH has given assurances to protect existing depositors and borrowers of SABA.

As lead-arranger of this transaction, AGH will assume operational oversight over the bank with the appointment and secondment of an Integration Officer responsible for the successful implementation of the acquisition.

“The award of the licence highlights the growth potential of the banking sector and offers employment opportunities,” Venter said. “It also presents possible investment opportunities and the potential for future fundraising.”

NAMPO / Nation in Conversation: Substantial NAMPO Attendance Shows Producers Still Have Hope

A new record attendance figure achieved during NAMPO 2018 and the feedback from the exhibitors that they mainly did good business testify to the optimism of the agricultural sector despite all the uncertainties facing South African producers.

This is the view of Jannie de Villiers, CEO of Grain SA, after the organisation’s 52nd NAMPO Harvest Day, which was presented successfully during the past week. According to ticket sales, 82 817 visitors streamed through the gates to visit the 746 exhibitors and to enjoy the family atmosphere and farm hospitality that are so unique to the Harvest Day. The private airstrip at NAMPO Park handled 361 aeroplanes and helicopters, ferrying a variety of visitors there, with ease.

‘The growing interest in the NAMPO Harvest Day is encouraging, and it proves that agriculture is still alive and well. To each exhibitor, visitor and staff member: thank you that you came to enjoy the event with us and helped to write the NAMPO story with us. A personal highlight of each NAMPO is meeting various people, talking and building relationships. Those relationships strengthen the hope on which agriculture is built.

‘It is also noteworthy that the number of non-agriculture visitors and numerous media representatives from outside the agricultural media have increased. From formal and informal discussions it is clear that they come to NAMPO because they like it there. The growing interest from black farmers in the show is also a definite plus to Grain SA,’ De Villiers said.

Foreign exhibitors’ interest in NAMPO as a platform for reaching the rest of Africa continues. Approximately 76 international exhibitors were housed in eight international pavilions – which each involved at least eight exhibitors from their country as part of their exhibitions. Representatives from Israel, Poland, England, America, India, France, Italy, Denmark, China, Turkey and Russia participated in the Harvest Day.

Grain SA continuously seeks to retain NAMPO’s sole focus on agriculture. The selection of exhibitors and the items on the programme are consistently arranged with this in mind. This year the Nation in Conversation forum made a strong contribution to the land debate. Fittingly, in the 30th year in which the Farmer Patent Competition was presented, Grain SA and Omnia welcomed the magazine Landbouweekblad as an additional partner.

The poor condition of various public roads in the area of NAMPO Park is of great concern. This places enormous pressure on certain routes and hampers the steady flow of traffic to and from the showgrounds.

The broad agricultural family of the Western Cape can look forward to NAMPO Cape, which will be presented in collaboration with Grain SA at Bredasdorp in the Western Cape from 12 to 14 September 2018. This trade and stock expo is aimed at creating a base as agricultural information provider, market place, network opportunity and gathering place for everyone with an interest in agriculture in the region. Information on NAMPO Cape is available via the website.

Next year’s NAMPO Harvest Day has already been scheduled for 14 to 17 May.


Source: Grain SA

AFGRI Equipment and John Deere – automation data extraordinaire

The AFGRI Equipment and John Deere partnership is proud to announce the implementation of JD Link, a near real-time telematics system connecting all makes and models of agricultural machinery in the field with the farmer’s office and mobile devices.


28 May 2018, Centurion – The partnership between AFGRI Equipment and John Deere dates back to 1962, with AFGRI Equipment benefitting from world-class automation equipment, support and services and John Deere benefitting from the extensive AFGRI Equipment dealer network, spanning South Africa, certain African countries, as well as Western Australia.


“The AFGRI Equipment dealer network is in fact the largest outside of North America,” explains Tinus Prinsloo, CEO of AFGRI. “The JD Link system, which AFGRI Equipment has already started rolling out to farmers, helps collate telematics and a wide range of data from all machines. Vital information to prevent downtime as an example, is available at any time to the farmer, and this, in our opinion, will improve efficiencies even further.”


“The solution enables customers to keep track of their fleet, monitor work progress, manage logistics, access important machine information, analyse and optimise machine performance, receive alert SMS or email messages, perform remote operator support and automate data exchange.”


Prinsloo goes on to explain that this unique system, one of the first of its kind in the market, is invaluable for the future of large-scale commercial farming. “JD Link offers boundless features and benefits – even the most basic data relayed would consist of equipment-specific metrics such as diesel levels, engine temperature and forward speed.


“Second, and probably most exciting, is the efficiency data that becomes available such as hectares completed, average hectares per hour, hitch position and wheel slip. Equipment can even be geo-fenced and time restricted to alert owners of unauthorised usage.”


A third feature is that JD Link acts as a gateway for data to flow to and from machines. Machine critical updates can be carried out over an internet connection or via screen-sharing to allow technicians access to in-cab screens via an internet link, and fault codes can be pushed to the owner, operator or the dealer as they occur.


“What is exciting is that we are now enabling machines and equipment to communicate with one other. This will allow, as examples, machines to adapt guidance tracks to accommodate different working widths of implements,” says Prinsloo.


He comments that while this may sound like a sci-fi movie script, it is in fact agriculture in the twenty-first century, where extracting efficiency down to the smallest aspect counts.


“AFGRI Equipment has always seen value in investing in precision agriculture. We believe that these technologies enable our producers to make more informed decisions by having the correct information available to them when they need it. We have embarked on this journey to collaborate with producers, thereby ushering in the next age of agricultural information technology, automation, management and ultimately profitability for their operations. JD Link forms an important building block in the total strategy of allowing us to achieve this vision for the future,” indicates a proud Prinsloo.


The system can be used across various models and types of equipment, the only limitations being data on certain non-John Deere equipment, and on older and lower spec John Deere tractors.


An additional benefit is that systems other than those from John Deere can be added to the platform, with the result being that the farmer or equipment owner stands to benefit tremendously.

NAMPO / Nation in Conversation: How does the youth see agriculture in South Africa?


There can be no doubt that youth development and job creation are top of mind in South Africa currently, so this session at Nation in Conversation – taking place during NAMPO from the 14th to 18th May –  is sure to attract massive attention as a result.


For the country’s leading agribusiness, AFGRI, one of the first signatories of the Youth Employment Service (YES), commitment to developing South Africa’s youth is non-negotiable. Launched in April this year by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the initiative is aimed at empowering one million unemployed South African youth.


AFGRI was among the first companies to sign-up, along with other leading companies Absa, Discovery, Exxaro, FirstRand, Illovo, Imperial, Investec, MTN, Nedbank, Netcare, Pick n Pay, Sasol, Shoprite, Spar, Step, Uber, Unilever and Woolworths.


Chris Venter, CEO of AFGRI Group Holdings says that from his personal perspective there is a deep commitment to and understanding of the plight of youth in our country – and this view is entrenched at AFGRI. “Government needs the assistance of the private sector to manage the unemployment crises in the country and the least we can do is get involved in the offering of intern programmes and training, and through initiatives such as the YES project.”


Across the group, there are also several youth programmes in place, and AFGRI’s Corporate Social Investment (“CSI”) initiatives, focused on the key areas of food security, education support for schools, water security and poverty alleviation, are aimed at having a positive impact on the youth, emerging and commercial farmers, as well as the communities in which the group operates.


To date, AFGRI has supported 20 education projects, reaching over 7,000 learners; 23 food and water security projects, benefiting almost 9,000 community members and learners; six poverty alleviation projects, benefitting over 1,000 community members; and seven employee community initiatives.


The Emerging Farmer Development Initiative is housed in a standalone company called Harvest Time Investments. The programme aims to develop emerging farmers both in South Africa and on the continent and provide the essentials of farming through a diverse range of practical and theoretical training over a five-year period. The overarching rationale for Harvest Time Investments is to ensure sustainable agriculture.


“As a leader in the field of agriculture we are pleased with the tremendous success that our Emerging Farmer and Abba Training Programmes have achieved. What we have learnt from this is that practical experience and application is key, coupled with the support of mentors, access to finance and guidance from agronomists, for example. The result is a lasting formula which supports sustainable food security and most importantly enables the farmer to be economically successful.”


To encourage youth to attend NAMPO this year and give them a first-hand experience of the event, AFGRI has made free tickets available to 44 University of Pretoria students from the Faculty of Natural & Agricultural Sciences.


NAMPO / Nation in Conversation: Agriculture 2035

The Nation in Conversation topic “Agriculture 2035”, focusing on how new technology will change the face of agriculture as we know it today, is sure to spark debate around how to feed a burgeoning global population with natural resources that are already under pressure, as well as the sustainable development of the sector.


For AFGRI, South Africa’s leading agribusiness, innovation is one of the key aspects of remaining relevant to today’s farmers. “At AFGRI we strive to place innovation at the forefront of solutions to enhance productivity, creativity and ultimate value to customers. It is quite simply a way of doing business today,” says Chris Venter, CEO of AFGRI Group Holdings.


While innovation is encouraged across all of AFGRI’s products and services, including farming equipment and FinTech products such as the group’s eAccounts offering, AFGRI Technology Services (“ATS”) was set up some 18 months ago to focus on introducing innovation and technology across the agricultural value chain and bringing AgTech solutions to customers.


According to MD Niki Neumann, these are solutions ATS believes will help ensure both the future of agriculture and enable food security. “We are bringing together products and solutions that will solve some of agriculture’s biggest challenges. We aim to be the catalyst of innovation and technology-enabled solutions to drive sustainable agricultural growth across the African and global agricultural value chain.”


Neumann lists some of these challenges to be: the limited access to resources, finance, markets and information; increasing demand for farming efficiency – the constant demand to do more with less at a cheaper price; changing consumer demands, particularly towards increased food traceability and alternate protein sources; the demand to produce more to meet the exponential growth in the population; supply chain inefficiency and wasteful value chains; climate change, decreasing availability of land, water scarcity and changing weather patterns.


“Imagine a world where everyone had access to nutritional food. Imagine a world where 40% of the food produced is not wasted. Imagine a world where there is enough, equally dispersed for all. This is all possible through introducing innovative and inclusive business models, new technology and innovation in the sector. There’s both a positive societal impact, as well as a promising commercial opportunity that advanced, technology-driven agriculture can play, that is yet to be unlocked – agriculture can touch many lives positively.”


Neumann adds that a new frontier in agriculture has started and it’s moving faster than we imagined. “Last year alone there was a reported investment in AgTech start-ups of $10.1 billion. We are already on the back foot as a country in this space. It’s time for us to put technology and innovation forward as a key pillar of the future of the industry. It cannot be a ‘nice to have’, it needs to be adopted as a crucial enabler to the industry. We need to rethink the ordinary.”


With services uniquely centred on the concepts of “grow”, “create”, “build”, “leap” and “unite”, ATS provides a host of offerings, including:


  • Innovation and technology advisory services for farmers and businesses.
  • The design and co-design of new technology-driven business models, digital products and services for the sector.
  • The building of new technology through co-creation and outsourcing services for Ag-specific innovation and digital activities.


“We offer start-ups and entrepreneurs the ability to scale their enterprise and technology with us. Innovation and future-proofing your business is best done by working together. Join our innovation ecosystem to connect with like-minded innovators, entrepreneurs and gain first access to game-changing technology solutions, and to talk to us about partnerships and strategic alliances.”


In the FinTech space, AFGRI has for some time led the pack amongst agricultural businesses with its afore-mentioned eAccounts offering. “In this age of technology, where most financial transactions are done through the touch of a button rather than in the presence of a teller or the bank manager, it is essential for financial services companies to offer top-notch electronic platforms from which clients can transact. eAccounts does just this – it’s a ground-breaking electronic account management solution offered to customers through UNIGRO,” explains Tinus Prinsloo, CEO of AFGRI.


Customers can, from a handling and storage perspective, view and receive invoices and statements, as well as draw detailed reports and information of their respective grain delivered for storage at any of AFGRI Grain Management’s 85 locations across the country. An ability exists to calculate storage rates according to grade and grain type. Customers are also able to access and monitor their procurement contracts, which contain detailed information, as well as movement reports.  Another feature enables farmers to record rainfall on their lands. Future developments on this platform include an insurance and claims functionality.


Of course, when it comes to agricultural equipment, staying at the forefront of innovation is a must. AFGRI Equipment has ensured that farmers in Africa have had access to the finest agricultural equipment through the largest single John Deere franchise on the continent since 1962. What’s more is that AFGRI Equipment can support farmers with mobile servicing and maintenance workshops, ensuring effortless management of an agricultural fleet. Workshops are manned by highly qualified personnel, accredited by John Deere.


What’s more is that to ensure farmers have ground-breaking technology to hand in order to best manage their equipment, the AFGRI Equipment and John Deere partnership are currently implementing JD Link, a near real-time telematics system connecting all makes and models of agricultural machinery in the field with the farmer’s office and mobile devices.


“The JD Link system, which AFGRI Equipment has already started rolling out to farmers, helps collate telematics and a wide range of data from all machines. Vital information to prevent downtime as an example, is available at any time to the farmer, and this, in our opinion, will improve efficiencies even further,” says Prinsloo, adding that AFGRI Equipment would be making more information available on this system in the next few weeks.


The spectacular John Deere machines, along with specialist potato equipment, will be on display at the AFGRI Equipment John Deere stand as well as the new AFGRI stand, H2 at NAMPO – we urge you to come and take look at our latest range.

NAMPO / Nation in Conversation: The importance of economy of scale: Big vs small

One of the debate topics at this year’s Nation in Conversation is around the importance of economies of scale, and the benefits of having an economy of scale in business, and specifically in South African agriculture.


From a business perspective, there is none closer to this subject than AFGRI itself. Now a leading agricultural services company, the group had a humble beginning. Back in 1923, 150 people attended a meeting called to establish the Oos-Transvaalse Landboukoöperasie, with 29 people signing the list of original members.


By 1930, 5,400 tons of maize was being handled by AFGRI – then considered a record, this in fact was hardly enough to fill the tube of one modern silo today. And 42 years later, in 1972 the total business silo capacity was 587,700 metric tons. Today AFGRI’s handling and storage capacity is more than five million tons!


Over the 95 years it has been in business, AFGRI has grown its offerings to encompass a wide variety of services and products, geared to support farmers no matter what their size.


“Constant innovation and in-depth knowledge of the agricultural sector means that we have also kept pace with the changing needs of our customers. We now offer grain management services, financial services, including insurance solutions and a financial transacting platform, agricultural equipment, animal feeds, retail outlets, commodity and currency trading, and commodity hedging amongst others,” says CEO of AFGRI, Tinus Prinsloo.


“This all-encompassing approach that means that farmers need look no further than AFGRI for all their requirements. For us, economy of scale means the ability to offer total support for our customers.”


Inherent to this approach are the lessons learnt from supporting generations of farmers – many of whom also started off small. “As their needs have grown and changed, we’ve been able to map our own growth. Because of our size, we’re also able to invest in the latest farming innovations through our division, AFGRI Technology Services, which is focused on mobilising AgTech to the benefit of South African farmers.”


In partnership with John Deere, AFGRI is the largest John Deere dealer outside of North America, and nothing says “efficiency” better than the equipment, technology and support that is provided through this long-standing partnership. “Here’s a fun fact – in 1963, the year following AFGRI entering into an agreement with John Deere, we sold only 28 tractors, compared to 1972 when we sold 519 John Deere tractors. Now our equipment technology leads the market with innovative solutions and products.”


According to Prinsloo, South African farmers are also world leaders in adopting technology to enhance and economise farming.


To ensure farmers have ground-breaking technology to hand to best manage their equipment, the AFGRI Equipment and John Deere partnership are currently implementing JD Link, a near real-time telematics system connecting most makes and models of agricultural machinery in the field with the farmer’s office and mobile devices.


“The JD Link system, which AFGRI Equipment has already started rolling out to farmers, helps collate telematics and a wide range of data from all machines. Vital information to prevent downtime as an example, is available at any time to the farmer, and this, in our opinion, will improve efficiencies even further,” says Prinsloo, adding that AFGRI Equipment would be making more information available on this system in the next few weeks.


He adds that another logical progression of economy of scale, and the experience gained over more than nine decades of working side by side with South Africa’s farming community, is AFGRI’s involvement in assisting emerging farmers, where the goal is to support their growth path of becoming the commercial farmers of the future.


“By passing on this information and knowledge and offering insight that comes from many years of experience, combined with mentorship where our teams work directly with emerging farmers throughout the process, are able to assist the individual to enhance his/her yields. This puts the farmer in a good position to increase yields and grow more crops, ultimately helping him or her to become the successful commercial farmer of tomorrow.”


Prinsloo concludes that at AFGRI it is not one divisional approach that supports the success of the farmer, no matter whether large or small, but the total offering of AFGRI, which has been moulded over nine decades and which continues to be enhanced upon as requirements and economic challenges change.