AFGRI Group Holdings legal team scores hat trick of awards in international legal competition

Centurion, 3 June 2020 – AFGRI Group Holdings, an investment holding company with interests in a number of food, agriculture and financial services related companies providing products and services to ensure sustainable agriculture and food security, is proud to announce that its in-house legal department won three awards at the In-House Community Counsels of the Year Awards 2020, held from Hong Kong last week.

The winners of this annual competition were announced last week via a unique virtual ceremony, during which the AFGRI Group Legal team was announced as the “South African Legal Team of the Year”, the “South African Small Team of the Year” and the “South African Energy and Natural Resources Team of the Year”.

This is the third consecutive year that the AFGRI Group Legal team has won the “South African Legal Team of the Year” award and it’s the second consecutive time that they have won the “South African Small Team of the  Year” award. The international judging panel was particularly impressed with the team’s demonstrated ability to be innovative, efficient, and cost-effective in a challenging environment.

According to Acting CEO of AFGRI Group Holdings, Tinus Prinsloo, “By winning such awards, the AFGRI Legal team does us all proud and ensures that our brand is held in high esteem in such global communities, given that the In-House Community is comprised of over 20,000 individual members with a responsibility for legal and compliance issues in the Asia, Middle East and Africa regions.”

Pieter Badenhorst, who heads up the award-winning team, is no stranger to accolades such as this, and last year became the first General Counsel in Africa to win the “General Counsel of the Year” Award twice at the African Legal Awards. The team has also won several other awards.

“I would like to congratulate my entire team for this remarkable achievement, which endorses the winning qualities and reflects both the work ethic and the values we uphold. There can be no greater honour than being recognised by our peers internationally,” said Badenhorst.

Lemang Agricultural Services collaborates on project with British American Tobacco to train and develop new era tobacco farmers

Centurion, 21 May 2020 – The Emerging Farmer Initiative was launched by British American Tobacco South Africa (“BATSA”) in 2011 to facilitate transformation within the tobacco industry in South Africa. Since inception, the initiative has been funded by BATSA. The project creates new era farmers i.e. tobacco producers within previously marginalised communities in suitable agricultural areas of South Africa.

These new era farmers produce sun-cured Virginia tobacco and food crops (vegetable, maize and bean production) on a rotational farming basis to ensure that their crops mix provides a sustainable source of financial and food security and have a positive impact for their communities.

The groups of farmers successfully cultivated sun-cured Virginia tobacco, which is then sold to BATSA through Limpopo Tobacco Processors. The ultimate goal of this project is to technically grow the farmers, provide incubation and farmer development, financial administration and central purchasing services. By doing this, Lemang Agricultural Services, a division of AFGRI Agri Services, then creates suitably trained, experienced and sustainable new era tobacco farmers who can successfully progress to the status of commercial tobacco farmers.

The initiative currently empowers 150 farmers in total, farming at 15 sites in five provinces; Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, touching 4,300 beneficiaries, offering support through incubation, training and mentorship.

Each of the new era farmers is at various stages of development with continuous training and practical guidance from mentors. Beyond empowering the new era farmers to become experienced, an extension of the programme is to empower the new era farmers to become successful business owners by offering assistance and training in business development, financial and administrative assistance at Lemang’s Training Academy, Vastfontein.

Lemang Agricultural Services will project manage the total programme with a tobacco agronomy team and support from Lemang’s existing team.

Once cigarettes and other tobacco products can be sold again, the tobacco farmers supported by this great initiative stand to benefit enormously, allowing the crop already harvested to be sold and duly processed. This will ensure that money is put back into the farmers’ pockets, and averting further economic hardships for them and their families. This will also allow the new era tobacco farmers to plan accordingly for the season ahead, with the hope of prosperity into the future.

 

Introducing Axl, the ground-breaking online platform enabling the rental of agricultural machinery in South Africa

Centurion, 20 May 2020 – AFGRI Agri Services, one of the country’s leading agricultural services companies, is again leading the charge in the sector, with the unveiling today of a new disruptive agtech platform, the first of its kind in South Africa, known simply as “Axl”.

This online platform is designed to enable the convenient rental of farm equipment, facilitating the contract between the renter and the owner in a few simple steps, all without either having to set foot outside their own door.

In a nutshell, Axl allows farmers to find, rent, and pay for agricultural equipment through a secure online portal, enabling service providers – equipment owners, retailers, and contractors – to build their business and grow revenue streams and optimising the process of renting out their machines. Axl provides world-class payment solutions that ease the cash-flow challenges for service providers while connecting renters to a quality rated service.

Access to the right machinery at the right time is a critical success factor for farmers. “Whether it is a small, emerging, or large commercial farmer, this is an ongoing challenge for farmers of all sizes. Especially now, as the global pandemic has left global supply chains under immense pressure, uncertainty remains in the minds of our customers and currency volatility has resulted in the increase in equipment costs,” says Niki Neumann, the head of AFGRI’s strategic innovation division, AFGRI Technology Services (“ATS’’), which has developed this product, along with AFGRI Equipment.

“We have decided to open the platform up sooner than originally planned due to the increased need for an alternative solution. As with all new products we expect some teething issues, however, we have already had successful rentals via the platform.”

Axl’s first customer and a member of AFGRI’s Future Farmer Forum, Hardu Prinsloo, shares his experience using the service, “It’s always very fulfilling to be part of something new that can make a difference to agriculture as a whole.”

“When we set about developing the concept, we understood that with farming comes many unforeseen challenges, we wanted to build a community of quality-rated equipment service providers to be there for farmers when they need them the most. Uncertainty and change are something we will never see the back of, it is inherent in our lives now and going forward. We are adapting and excited to embark on this journey with our Axl customers,” says Neumann.

AFGRI Equipment branches will be the first to offer the rental service to their customers. However, the platform is for all South African farmers and equipment owners, including contractors and retailers alike.

UNIGRO customers have the added benefit of using their revolving credit or production facilities to pay for rentals via the Axl service. “Axl is an exciting platform, and UNIGRO is excited to integrate its financial services offering in support of the platform.  If a quality product offering like Axl enabled with convenient access to finance, delights our customers then we have been successful,” according to Ross Simmonds, the Managing Director of UNIGRO.

Axl goes beyond an online service – it breaks down the traditional barriers to accessing mechanisation for all farmers; it is creating a secure and shared environment and encourages us to do more with less. In times like these, this has never been more important.

According to Patrick Roux, the Managing Director of AFGRI Equipment, the platform is an exciting product. “It will further allow equipment owners to fully utilise their equipment throughout the year, and I am optimistic that this platform will change the way we utilise farm equipment in the future.”

He said that by launching Axl during the lockdown, AFGRI Agri Services can support farmers through uncertain times in a way not offered in the sector before now. ‘’In the long-term, the aim is to deliver an innovative digital service that both enables our customers to drive sustainability, profitability, and productivity for their business. We are positively transforming the equipment market for the better, starting now.”

Quite simply, Axl keeps the wheels turning.

For more information, visit https://axl.app

Free trial period for eAccounts during lockdown Level 4

Dear valued client,

Free trial period for eAccounts during lockdown Level 4

A great opportunity exists for UNIGRO clients who are not yet using our eAccounts platform to sign up for free during May 2020.

Our eAccounts fees have been suspended, creating a unique opportunity to use this world-class platform for your financial transactions, including convenient access to funding. eAccounts provides real-time transactional capability and access to relevant account information.

For an easy tutorial on what eAccounts offers and how to use it, please take a look at the short video on our YouTube page, at https://youtu.be/Km1zn-RLb5s

Tried it and don’t like it? If eAccounts is not for you, then simply deregister before the end of May – there is no charge for signing up, usage or deregistering during this period.

Stay safe.

Kind regards

 

Ross Simmonds

MD, UNIGRO Financial Services

CFO Magazine features Johan Geel, COO of AFGRI Group Holdings

Johan rejoins AFGRI Group Holdings from GWK, where he served as group FD until April 2020.

On 1 May 2020, Johan Geel rejoined AFGRI Group Holdings as the COO. He left as group FD in January 2018 and served as the group FD of GWK until April 2020.  About his appointment, Johan says it is a “great privilege” to be back at Afgri.

“The AFGRI environment has changed since I left, but I am looking forward to the new challenges in a changing global environment with things like Covid-19.”

He adds that he will review the current company structures with a focus on cost. “In short, we need to get back to basics and focus on what is important and what will make a difference for the new future of the agri and foods environment.”

This is not the first time Johan will be in the COO role at AFGRI. In 2009, he also served as COO until 2012 before being appointed group FD.

Johan was a CFO Awards 2016 and 2017 nominee for his work as the Group FD of AFGRI.

 

UNIGRO gaan voort om eAccounts fooie op te skort

Gegewe die inperkingsverlenging tot en met 30 April 2020, sowel as die bekendstelling van Vlak 4 inperking vanaf 1 Mei 2020, verstaan ons dat ons boere steeds vir die afsienbare toekoms ernstige uitdagings in die gesig staar.  Daarom is dit vir ons aangenaam om aan te kondig dat UNIGRO en GroCapital Financial Services sal voortgaan om eAccounts fooie op te skort met ingang Mei 2020 en waarskynlik selfs langer.

Ons wil u weereens bedank vir u voortgesette ondersteuning en die bydrae wat u lewer in die voorsiening van voedsel vir ons land se etenstafels.

Ons vertrou dat die fooiopskorting sal help om finansiële laste ligter te maak in hierdie tyd en u finansiële adminstasieproses vergemaklik.

Wees veilig.

Ross Simmonds

Besturende Direkteur, UNIGRO Financial Services

UNIGRO continues to suspend fees for eAccounts

Given the lockdown extension to 30 April 2020, and the introduction of Level 4 from 1 May 2020, we understand that our farmers will continue to face a number of serious challenges for the foreseeable future. We are therefore pleased to announce that UNIGRO and GroCapital Financial Services will continue our eAccounts fees suspension into May 2020 and possibly beyond this.

Once again, thank you for your ongoing support and for helping ensure that food reaches the table across the country. We hope that this fee suspension will help ease any financial burden and make your financial administration process more convenient.

Stay safe.

Ross Simmonds

MD, UNIGRO Financial Services

AFGRI Grain Management Kennisgewing: AFGRI Grain Management-2020/2021 Graandienste tariewe en Bedryfsreëlings

AFGRI Grain Management-2020/2021 Graandienste tariewe en Bedryfsreëlings vir die volgende provinsies:

• Vrystaat

• Mpumalanga en Gauteng

• Limpopo

• Noordwes

• Natal

 

Geagte Belanghebbende

 

Vertrou dat dit goed gaan met u en dat u en u gesin gesond en veilig is.

 

Met hierdie skrywe gee AFGRI Grain Management amptelik kennis van:

 

1. Tariefstrukture:

a) Graanhantering;

b) Graanopberging;

c) Graandienste; en

 

2. Bedryfsreëlings:

Vir Somergraan-2020/2021 bemarkingseisoen:

• Sonneblom/Sojabone: 1 Maart 2020 tot 28 Februarie 2021

• Mielies/Sorghum: 1 Mei 2020 tot 30 April 2021

 

Ons herinner u ook daaraan dat die “Standaard hantering en opbergingsvoorwaardes” van toepassing is op alle graan wat by AFGRI-graanfasiliteite ontvang en opgeberg word en vorm saam met hierdie skrywe die geheel ooreenkoms. Hierdie voorwaardes is elektronies op die AFGRI-webblad beskikbaar en by u naaste Silobestuurder asook by AFGRI-hoofkantoor te Centurion (011-0632311 Marlene Momberg).

 

COVID-19 het oornag die wêreld en ons lewenswyse verander. In hierdie onsekere tye is dit belangrik om aan te hou om dienste aan ons kliënte te lewer. Ons volg die aanbevelings van die Wêreld Gesondheids Organisasie (WGO), omdat ons daarna streef om ons kliënte en ons personeel te beskerm.

 

AFGRI Grain Management wil u verseker van ons volgehoue goeie dienslewering en is ons enige tyd beskikbaar om na voorstelle te luister om diensvlakke te verbeter. Skakel gerus u naaste Silobestuurder.

 

Dit is vir ons belangrik dat u die beste diens by AFGRI-graanfasiliteite sal ervaar en word u ‘n voorspoedige oestyd toegewens.

 

Vir enige verder navrae verwys ons u na www.afgri.co.za en of kontak u naaste Silobestuurder.

 

Vriendelike groete

 

Jerry Maritz

Besturende Direkteur: AFGRI Grain Management

AFGRI Grain Management Notice: AFGRI Grain Management 2020/2021 Grain Services rates and Operating arrangements

AFGRI Grain Management 2020/2021 Grain Services rates and Operating arrangements for the following provinces:

• Free State

• Mpumalanga and Gauteng

• Limpopo

• North West

• Natal

 

Dear Stakeholder

 

Trust that you are well, and that you and the family are healthy and safe.

 

As of this writing, AFGRI Grain Management officially announces:

 

1. Tariff structures:

a) Grain handling;

b) Grain storage; and

c) Grain services

 

2. Operating arrangements:

For Summer Grain 2020/2021 marketing season:

• Sunflower / Soybeans: 1 March 2020 to 28 February 2021

• Maize / Sorghum: 1 May 2020 to 30 April 2021

 

We also remind you that the “Standard handling and storage conditions” apply to all grain received and stored at AFGRI grain facilities and together with this letter form the entire agreement. These conditions are available electronically on the AFGRI website and at your nearest Silo Manager as well as at the AFGRI head office in Centurion (011-0632311 Marlene Momberg).

 

COVID-19 has changed the world and our way of life overnight. And in these uncertain times, it’s even more important to continue to provide services for our customers. We are following recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) as we strive to help protect our customers and our team members.

 

AFGRI Grain Management wants to assure you of our continued good service delivery and we are available at any time to listen to suggestions to improve service levels. Please contact your nearest Silo Manager.

 

It is important to us that you will experience the best service at AFGRI grain facilities and we wish you a prosperous harvest time.

 

For any further inquiries please visit www.afgri.co.za or contact your nearest Silo Manager directly.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Jerry Maritz

Managing Director: AFGRI Grain Management

What the Land Bank’s potential event of default means for UNIGRO Financial Services

UNIGRO Financial Services (“UNIGRO’’) received and took note of the Land Bank’s (“the Bank’’) SENS announcement on 20 April 2020. UNIGRO and the Bank have a significant partnership in place through a Service Level Agreement, which has endured since 2011. Having held several meetings and having been in communication with the Bank in the weeks prior to this, as well as more recently, we would like to assure our clients that the Bank and UNIGRO are doing all we can to ensure farmers’ needs are addressed at this time. We also commit to keeping you informed of any new developments regarding this issue.

The background
On 21 January 2020 Moody’s Investor Service (“Moody’s”) announced the downgrade of the Bank’s issuer rating from Baa3 to Ba1, and its long-term national scale issuer rating (NSR) from Aa1 to Aa3. Following Moody’s downgrade of South Africa’s sovereign credit rating on 27 March 2020, another downward rating adjustment was made to all state-owned entities. This meant that the Bank’s issuer rating was downgraded again from Ba1 to Ba2.

What caused the Land Bank to declare a potential event of default?
The above events had a significant impact on the liquidity position (cash flow) of the Bank, with the following developments being noted by the Bank as having exacerbated the situation:

  • some of the Bank’s lenders withdrew their facilities with the Bank, while other investors reduced the roll-over of maturing facilities in order to operate within their investment policies that have restrictions on the level of investments made to organisations with the Bank’s current credit rating;
  • most of the Bank’s funders and investors began a review process to establish their risk appetite position in relation to the Bank’s ability to service its funding facilities; and
  • all of these events took place at a time when the Bank was in its peak period of loan drawdowns by its customers (as farmers prepared for both the summer and winter planting periods).

As a result, the Bank experienced a liquidity shortfall, which means it is not able to meet immediate obligations to settle a repayment under the terms of a revolving credit facility with one of its lenders.

What is the Bank doing to resolve the issue?
The non-payment constitutes a default that the Bank needs to remedy – it is currently in consultation with the lender concerned to negotiate a waiver and an extension of the repayment date.

What does this mean for UNIGRO?

  1. The SENS issued by the Bank ‘advises note holders holding listed notes issued under Land Bank’s JSE-listed (i) ZAR 20 Billion DMTN Programme dated 18 October 2010 (the “2010 Programme”) and its (ii) ZAR 30 Billion DMTN Programme dated 13 March 2017 that a potential Event of Default has occurred under the terms of both the 2010 Programme and the 2017 Programme.’ UNIGRO does not hold any notes in these programmes and so is not exposed to the risk of default under the note programmes.
  2. Will the potential default affect UNIGRO and most importantly the farmers who have Land Bank loans through UNIGRO? The Bank uses the note programmes to fund its balance sheet. While the potential default could impact the Bank’s ability to maintain or raise funding, we are confident that through our joint efforts that UNIGRO and the Bank can support current farmer commitments.
  3. UNIGRO and the AFGRI Group have enjoyed a long relationship with Land Bank. What is the status of this relationship now? The relationship remains positive and we are working with the Bank to ensure our farmers are serviced effectively.
  4. What is the current total size of the book that UNIGRO manages on behalf of the Bank? UNIGRO currently manages R15 billion of the farmer debtor book on behalf of the Bank. For now, we are able to and will continue to service this book.
  5. What will happen in the longer term? The potential default could prevent the Bank from raising funding. This could negatively impact on UNIGRO’s ability to provide liquidity to farmers through their loan agreements. This could mean that farmers funded by UNIGRO might not be able to procure their inputs to plant for the next season, which could in turn potentially affect food security in South Africa. However, again we stress that the Bank and UNIGRO are working together to ensure that this does not happen. As part of AFGRI Agri Services, one of South Africa’s leading agribusinesses, we are backed by a more than 90-year heritage in grain and agriculture. We are committed to the continued success of our farmers and to the agricultural sector, now and into the future.