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Africa Agribusiness Media by Alex Hitzemann

ALG Estates Prof M Karaan

Prof Mohammed Karaan delivering his address

Africa is a continent with abundant natural resources and huge market potential but the agriculture sector is in dire need of better management should we want to leave South Africa a better place for our children.

This was the crux of the message delivered last night by noted agricultural economist Prof Mohammed Karaan at a gala event of one South Africa’s leading citrus estates.

In the same vein Prof Karaan pointed out that the South African government’s effort to redistribute agricultural land has not achieved the desired results and their strategy should be revised.

Prof Karaan was the guest speaker at the ALG Estates gala event in the upper Olifants River Valley near Citrusdal. The Estate celebrated their more than 250 years of business in farming with the inauguration of brand new state of the art pack house facilities. He commended the farming operation not only for their investment in their new equipment but also in their people.

ALG Estates manages one of the country’s most successful Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) agriculture programs which is making a profit and expanding. For the past seven years the Estate also passed stringent the annual auditing by Fair Trade an organization which promotes fair labor practices worldwide.

“We decided to stay in the country and re-invest in our business despite the turmoil and uncertainties we experience in South African agriculture today,” says Gerrit van der Merwe, CEO of ALG Estates a family-run business whose ancestors already settled in 1750 in the valley.

ALG Estates Group Pic One

Some guests who attend the ALG Estate’s 250 Years and Beyond Gala Event were from left Sean Walsh (CEO Cape Agri), Prof Mohammed Karaan (Agricultural Economist), Tiekie September (Director Cedar Citrus), David Cuff (Head Buyer Fresh Produce: Woolworths South Africa) and Gerrit van der Merwe (CEO ALG Estates).

“By investing in our people through various social upliftment programs we try to be part of the solution for the country’s future. We have a very good relationship with our workers. Many of them have been with us for generations,” says Van der Merwe.

The estates founded their BEE project Cedar Citrus (PTY) Ltd in 1999 as a joint venture with 32 farm workers. It started making a profit in 2010.  During 2015 this BEE company exported 1500 tons of citrus from their production unit of 36 hectares realizing a total turnover of R12 million for the year. It has now paid off its startup loan to the Industrial Development Council and expanding its operations with the purchase of additional land using their own funds.

The Estate also operates three crèches and a pre-primary school for its farm workers where some 90 children receive proper tuition as well as three meals a day. It also built several sport facilities and assists workers in their sport programs throughout the year with traveling and equipment costs partly paid by Fair Trade subsidies. The Estate in addition also supports 42 children of farm employees with school bursaries to attend schools in the district.

ALG Estates is one of South Africa’s top citrus producers which commands a leading edge on many fronts. It has 41 different citrus cultivars under production which enables the estate to produce citrus 12 months of the year.

The Estate won the title National Farmer of the Year in 2010, South Africa’s most coveted agricultural award.

Anthony Penderis on behalf of ALG Estates compiled this report.


Gerrit van der Merwe: 082 569 8787; gerrit@algestates.com

Anthony Penderis: 084 306 0331; anthony.penderis@gmail.com

Nairobi, 20 February 2017 … The national drought disaster declared recently by the government has mobilised the population to look for alternatives for their water and power needs.

Davis & Shirtliff (D&S), East Africa’s leading supplier of water and energy products has announced discounts starting from 15% for various water and solar energy products. The special season offer is valid until 31 March 2017 for purchases made at the company’s nationwide branches as well as its online shop www.davisandshirtliff.com/shop.

wowBuying water from independent water bowsers can have its advantages, but if the source of the water is unknown, it is highly recommend that households install water purifiers. Available in Kenya, under the Dayliff brand the Mini RO water purifier is on offer at KShs29,400 inclusive of VAT. The Dayliff Mineral water pot, which is a table top water purifier is selling for only KShs3,100.

Where issues are being experienced in the traditional power generating locations, the Dayliff 1kW invertor plus 100 Ah battery is a power back up system is on offer at KShs32,700. This system will keep security lights on and allow you to use devices for 4 hours.

The one challenge most households are experiencing in the current drought is water pumping. D&S have a solar pump plus solar panel and controller, with 195w capacity for KShs86,000. This combination will allow you to pump from your water tank (once filled), even if you have no electric power.

If taking a hot shower is important for your daily well-being – some people can do without – then consider investing in a rooftop solar water heater. The special offers range from KShs38,400 to KShs 120,000 depending on capacity of the UltraSun 200Litre Vacuum tube solar system and UltraSun solar water heater respectively.

For the agriculture sector, the Dayliff 3” and Dayliff 2” engine pumps, for drainage, irrigation and water transfer are now KShs16,400 and KShs29,900 respectively. The company has included in the special offer , two generators the smaller 6.5kVA Dayliff DG3000P for KShs 24,500 and the larger 16.0kVA DG7500P for KShs54,000. All prices are inclusive of VAT where applicable and all products fall under the Davis & Shirtliff terms of warranty.


Issued on behalf of D&S by Yolanda Tavares PR
Contact: Victor Muya 0706 010 063 or 0728 045 484
Email: victor@ytpr.co.ke
About Davis & Shirtliff
Founded in 1946, Davis & Shirtliff has been the leading supplier of water related and alternative energy equipment for 70 years. It primarily focuses on six principal product sectors – Water Pumps, Boreholes, Swimming Pools, Water Treatment, Generators and Solar Equipment. It has 30 branches throughout Kenya in major towns and centres.

    Untitled-5Women dressed in vibrant African fabric are sprinkled across fields of tea, coffee and banana trees. This is Tanzania, and these women are the caretakers of the land – and of their families. And yet, for women like Isabella Mwile, hard work in the field and raising children doesn’t necessarily make her a partner at home. Traditionally in Tanzania, men are the decision makers. However, in Isabella’s village of Mbaka, in Rungwe district, these traditions are changing.

    In January 2015, leaders of Mbaka village acknowledged Isabella’s leadership qualities and selected her to attend an Innovations in Gender Equality (IGE) training-of-trainers course on women’s’ and girls’ leadership in agriculture. With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, the IGE program facilitated this session with the goal of  improving community members’ knowledge and understanding of issues that are critical for women’s empowerment in Tanzania.

    During the three-day training, Isabella learned about the benefits of expanding a women’s role inside and outside of the home. Like how two heads are better than one when it comes to decision making on raising children or household finances. And how important it is to raise boys and girls equally. She also
    learned about how much value a woman can bring to a community organization or government position.
    I was most surprised by the fact that I could be independent from my husband. I realized that I could contribute to our household income by starting my own business of selling cereals, rice and beans,” says Isabella. She went home to share what she learned with her husband. He was supportive. In fact, he was proud of her new found confidence and relieved to have a second opinion, and a second income.

    Since 2012, IGE has trained 443 people like Isabella to become trainers of women’s empowerment and gender equality in their communities. And, over 3,900 women and 1500 men have joined groups to learn about the important role women can play in their homes and communities.

    After her training, Isabella formed the Upendo group to share what she learned. For the last two years, they have been meeting every Thursday to discuss how they are incorporating the lessons of gender equity into their lives.

    One woman joined the school board and plans to run for district office next year. A few women share about the benefits of joint household decision making. One woman speaks about how her son and daughter now have equal access to education – and are doing the same household chores. Several women have been empowered to start their own business. And one woman, a widow, is now confident to fix up the house, taking charge of repair projects that her husband used to see to. The stories
    vary, but each has a common theme. As Isabella puts it, “Our confidence is growing. We are helping each other improve and take care of ourselves. We no longer depend only on our spouses.”

    Since the first meeting in 2015, Isabella’s group has grown from 20 to 50 members – including both women and men. “Neighboring communities are taking notice, they admire us and want to join. Our women members are known for our matching skirts! We have applications for 10 more members,” she says. Attendance is 5,000 Tanzanian shillings (2.50 USD) a week – and the money goes to a group loan system. Members can take out loans to buy supplies for their farm, or to provide temporary support to support one another during family emergencies.

    As their weekly meeting ends, the women and men of Upendo joyfully sing a hope for their future in Kiswahili, “Waking mama tusonge mbele, tusirudi nyumbo…” In English, this means, “Mothers let us move forward, we should not go back…” Thanks to people like Isabella, Mbaka is making progress.

    “I was most surprised by the fact that I could be independent from my husband. I realized that I could contribute to our household income by starting my own business of selling cereals, rice and beans.”

    ALG Estates manages their whole citrus supply line from the orchard to the retailer. This provides work for 120 full-time employers and a further 800 seasonal workers for 8 months of the year.

    ALG Estates manages their whole citrus supply line from the orchard to the retailer. This provides work for 120 full-time employers and a further 800 seasonal workers for 8 months of the year.

    By Alex Hitzemann

    Currently, South Africa’s racially selective Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy utilizes a points system to award economic advantages to businesses with a significant percentage of black ownership and/or management. The policy has gone through several major revisions and has been a flash-point for debate in South African political theater. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) projects in the South African agricultural sector have an alarmingly high failure rate.

    However, a BEE citrus project in the Upper Olifants River Valley near Citrusdal in the Western Cape has proved to be an exception. Cedar Citrus started in 1999 due to unique co-operation between 32 of ALG Estate’s farm laborers, where every individual received his own share of Citrus land. ALG Estates is a family operation of 6 farms producing some 18,000 tons of citrus a year mostly for the export market.

    In the first year more than 24,000 trees were planted by Cedar Citrus and a further 12,000 where planted in 2002. Cedar Citrus started making a profit in 2010. In 2012 it paid off its startup loan to the Industrial Development Council and is now expanding its operations with the purchase of additional farm land.

    The Western Cape government awarded Cedar Citrus’ good performance over the years with a sprayer, 4 crate wagons, a trailer and recently this brand new John Deer tractor.

    The Western Cape government awarded Cedar Citrus’ good performance over the years with a sprayer, 4 crate wagons, a trailer and recently this brand new John Deer tractor.

    During 2015, the company exported 1,500 tons of citrus from their production unit of 36 hectares realizing a total turnover of R12 million for the year.

    In their next move towards more financial independence the workers jointly decided to plough back their profits and extended their operations by purchasing additional farmland to plant more citrus for the export market. 92 hectares of additional farmland has therefore been purchased on which new citrus orchards will be established.

    This of course was only made possible being part of a bigger organization such as ALG Estates. Their employer is an established citrus exporter. “Constant mentorship combined with in-house training and being part of an established value-adding export chain are the necessary ingredients for success in an operation such as this,” says Gerrit van der Merwe, CEO of ALG Estates.

    “Cedar Citrus is managed as one of our production units that receives continual expert external advise from professional entomologists and horticulturalists that specialize in citrus management. This is essential for pest and disease control as well as general orchard health. We also handle all their admin such as HR, financial administration and record keeping. External chartered accountants audit the company annually.


    Cedar Citrus directors Lena September and Dirk Dirks at a dam under construction which will supply irrigation water to their new 20 hectares citrus block.

    Cedar Citrus directors Lena September and Dirk Dirks at a dam under construction which will supply irrigation water to their new 20 hectares citrus block.

    “All 32 shareholders are furthermore employed in our various operations such as production, processing, packaging, marketing and general administration. Three of the shareholders occupy middle management positions while two are directors with executive powers. This ensures that they grow with our own operation and establish their own independence.

    “Over the last few years the Cedar Citrus patch of 36 hectares coincidentally turned out to be the most lucrative of all the production units on our six farms. They produce mostly popular soft citrus varieties such as Morr and Orr as well as navels, which are exported to North America, Europe and sold locally to the Woolworths supermarket chain. We are especially pleased that the 32 shareholders of Cedar Citrus jointly decided to waive their profit payouts from the company and rather re-invest it in the expansion of their own operation,” says Van der Merwe.


    Gerrit van der Merwe and his son Gerrit Junior who is in the process of taking over the reigns of this family-run operation going back some 250 years. The estate is the second biggest citrus producer and exporter in the Western Cape region of South Africa.

    Gerrit van der Merwe and his son Gerrit Junior who is in the process of taking over the reigns of this family-run operation going back some 250 years. The estate is the second biggest citrus producer and exporter in the Western Cape region of South Africa.

    The first phase of the company’s extension on the newly acquired land will be to plant 20 hectares of new popular varieties for the export market. This necessitates infrastructure such as a farm shed, farm manager housing on site, electricity, drainage, water supply and a pump house to irrigate the new orchards. It takes five years for a newly established citrus orchard to get into full production and ten years to make a profit on the initial capital outlay. The Western Cape government awarded Cedar Citrus’ good performance over the years various rewards such as 4 crate wagons, a trailer, and recently a brand new John Deer tractor.

    “Cedar Citrus is one of the best performing projects of its kind in South Africa and the envy of many farmers country-wide. Not only is the project a financial success, richly compensating the beneficiaries, but a very good example of how BEE schemes should be implemented and managed in South Africa. Congratulations to Gerrit and his team at ALG Estates on this beautiful project,” says Charl Senekal, the country’s largest private sugar producer and chairman of Pro-Agri Forum the exclusive club of former South African winners of the Farmer of the Year Award.

    Anthony Penderis on behalf of ALG Estates produced this report. Some portions were edited for publication in Africa Agribusiness Magazine by Alex Hitzemann

    Gerrit van der Merwe: 082 569 8787; gerrit@algestates.com
    Anthony Penderis: 084 306 0331; anthony.penderis@gmail.com

    By Nawa Mutumweno

    Of all Zambia’s economic sectors, agriculture holds more promise than any other in the country’s march to economic diversification.

    Since mining, the country’s prime industry, is a wasting asset, it is important more than ever before, to explore sectors that are sustainable to wean the country from the copper spoon it was born with.


    Zambia’s has 40 percent of the water resources of the entire southern African region. Of the 58 percent arable land, only 14 percent is currently cultivated. In real terms, this means that of 42 million hectares, only 1.5 million hectares is farmed each year.

    The agricultural sector employs 85 percent of the population and makes up around 20 percent of overall gross domestic product (GDP).

    Food Processing

    Food processing represents an outstanding investment opportunity in Zambia due to vast natural resources, extensive arable land, ample water and investment incentives and many joint-venture options.

    The Zambia Association of Manufacturing (ZAM), says despite its strong performance, the country’s food-processing industry has achieved only around one-quarter of its capacity and potential so far.
    ‘’There are vast opportunities for more investments in most sub-sectors of Zambia’s food-processing industry, for both small-scale and large-scale projects,’’ ZAM says.

    15092305657_d0d17e2311_zHigh potential sub-sectors encompass growing and processing oil seeds; downstream processing of meat and dairy products; producing palm oil; manufacturing soy-based food products; million wheat, rice and maize to produce flour; producing juices, carbonated drinks, beer and other beverages; processing groundnuts; producing ketchup and other tomato-based products; roasting and grinding coffee beans; processing cassava, pineapple, mangoes and sugar cane; producing dried fruit and processing fish to exploit Zambia’s vast fish resources.

    Other investment opportunities include producing tinned foods, confectionery, bread products, honey and cheese.

    One example of potential food –processing projects in Zambia is COMESA’s Regional Investment Agency (RIA) promotion of a greenfield project to build pineapple –canning factories in the north-western part of the country

    Mwinilunga district in the province has been ranked as Zambia’s best location for pineapple production. In the 1990s, a pineapple processing facility in the area produced around 11,368 tonnes

    from 1,421 hectares of pineapple plantations. The facility was later closed down. The planned new plant is expected to produce about 12,000 tonnes of processed pineapple per annum.


    In diversification away from maize, one of the sub-sectors which is being promoted is aquaculture. In August 2015, the Government launched a $10 million privately-owned fish farm, Yalelo. The firm, located on the shores of Lake Kariba in southern Zambia, already produces 6,000kg of tilapia daily.

    In a deliberate effort to increase domestic fish production, the Government is encouraging private investment.


    The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) recently received $400,000 to support the growth of the leather sub-sector in Zambia and three other member countries.

    Zambia has the potential to grow its leather value chain to half a billion dollars a year if all hides are transformed into finished products. The state has also agreed to waive taxes on leather production machines and equipment to further enhance growth.

    Farm Block Development

    In a bid to grow the agriculture sector, Government is developing the Farm Block Development Programme with vast opportunities for investors. Ten farming blocks have been identified (one in each province).

    ‘’The Nansanga Farming Block in Serenje, central Zambia, is the most advanced, with roads constructed and power connected. We have already allocated pieces of land to small-scale and commercial farmers. We are in the process of awarding 10 000 hectares of land to what is referred to as a core venture,’’ Minister of Agriculture, Given Lubinda said.


    Zambia’s future indeed lies in agriculture and President Lungu’s administration has emphasized its determination to pursue an agriculture-led economy through the rolling out of irrigation schemes and other innovations throughout the country.
    Speaking during the launch of the construction of the $28 million Mwomboshi Irrigation Dam in Chisamba, central Zambia recently, President Lungu reiterated his commitment to diversifying the agricultural sector.

    ‘’The construction of this dam gives a practical expression of my Government’s resolve to put agriculture at the centre of our economy. Irrigation farming is an act of diversifying the sector away from rain-fed agriculture, President Lungu said.
    Currently, the construction of dams is underway in Lusitu (Chirundu) and Musakashi in Mufulira district.

    ‘’We aim to have over 75,000 hectares by 2030. To achieve this, Government will ensure adequate funds for irrigation development annually. Currently, K56.7 million has been set aside for irrigation in the 2016 national budget,’’ he pointed out.

    Key players in Zambian agribusiness

    These include, inter alia, Zambeef Products, Zambia Sugar and the Zambia Breweries Group, a subsidiary of South African giant SABMiller, one of the world’s largest beer manufacturers.


    Zambia must take action to invest in industrialization in order to be competitive and take advantage of the business opportunities in the region, Zambeef Joint Chief Executive Officer Dr Carl Irwin told delegates at the fifth Zambian International Investment Forum (ZIIF) this week.

    “Zambeef strongly believes in Zambia’s potential to feed itself and the region given its abundant resources; good soils, climate, readily available as well as the ability to produce most crops given the right investment. But only in adding value to our produce can we fully realise the sector’s full potential,” said Dr Irwin, who was speaking at the opening of the high-level conference, which was officially launched by H.E. the President, on. Edgar Chagwa Lungu and attended by Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Hon. Margaret Mwanakatwe.

    Dr Irwin highlighted some of the benefits of focusing on value adding operations and the opportunities presented for the national economy; increased national food security, social development in rural areas, job creation, and tax and duty generated as result.

    Zambeef alone has generated US$220 million in revenue for the financial year 2015 and US$38 million of foreign exchange income for the nation; invested more than US$150 million in the last eight years; employed more than 6,000 staff and contributed US$18 million in tax and duty paid to the Zambian government

    Zambia Sugar

    Margins in both the regional and EU export markets are expected to remain under pressure from surplus sugar stocks on the world market. Realization in these markets will continue to be influenced by exchange rate movements.

    Zambian Breweries

    Zambian Breweries and National Breweries are among the largest buyers of maize, barley, cassava and sorghum in the country.
    The group purchases a significant quantity of raw materials locally. A total of 40,000 tonnes of maize is bought from small-scale farmers for use in the production of opaque and clear beer.

    The group has engaged close to commercial farmers in the growing of barley, with a planned annual uptake of 12,,000 tonnes. In 2015, two small-scale barley outgrower pilot programmes have been introduce with a view to further expansion

    More than 10,000 tonnes of sugar were consumed towards the manufacture of non-alcoholic drinks.
    A further 1,750 tonnes of sorghum was used in the production of its affordable Eagle lager, with a direct impact on 3,500 households in the year to March 31, 2015.

    From 2015, the company introduced cassava into its Eagle lager formula. It is now developing an end-to-end supply chain supporting small-scale farmers in Northern and Luapula provinces, and with innovative technology will deliver a high quality, affordable clear beer that will grow to become a leading brand within the company’s portfolio.

    Zambia’s agriculture is on the rise and is changing many lives in various corners of the country.

    As the Ministry of Agriculture rightfully acknowledged: ‘’Agriculture is the only sector that assuredly alleviates poverty in the country. The focus is to grow this industry that is the future of the country.’’

    Marshal Papworth has teamed up with Moulton College in Northampton to further develop its work in building sustainable farming skills in communities in sub-Saharan Africa. The Charity, which works with lead farmers and agricultural extension officers from Africa to advance their knowledge and practical skills, will partner with Moulton College, one of the UK’s leading agricultural colleges, to deliver a tailored 10 week, full time course.

    The annual course will welcome students from across the developing world – including Ghana, Malawi and Uganda – to the UK to work towards a BTEC Certificate in Agriculture. The course will cover crop and livestock management, business management, animal and plant husbandry, farm mechanisation and technology, and basic IT skills, alongside a schedule of enrichment and cultural visits which support the Marshal Papworth programme.

    Tom Arthey, Marshal Papworth Chairman, commented: “Since conception, Marshal Papworth has provided scholarships to students from developing countries which enable them to come to the UK and study at some of the top agricultural and horticultural institutions here. This new partnership reinforces the Charity’s commitment to providing students with the best opportunities to build their skills for the benefit of their communities.”

    Moulton College has also created a fellowship programme which will link each visiting students with a full-time student at the college to ensure they settle into the college easily and take full advantage of the opportunities available to them.

    Steve Davies, Principal of Moulton College said: “I am delighted that we have forged this collaboration with Marshal Papworth who are doing exceptional charity work in sub-Saharan Africa.  We very much look forward to welcoming the students to Moulton.”

    Walki has developed a new fibre-based soil mulching solution that is completely biodegradable. This organic mulch type, which is used for weed control and to optimise soil conditions and crop yield, is the first of its kind on the market.
    Tests have shown that Walki’s Agripap is not only easy to lay on the fields and delivers excellent weed control, but also offers benefits in terms of yield and durability. © Walki

    Tests have shown that Walki’s Agripap is not only easy to lay on the fields and delivers excellent weed control, but also offers benefits in terms of yield and durability. © Walki

    Walki, a leading global producer of technical laminates and protective packaging materials, has developed the first-ever organic mulching solution that is based on natural biodegradable fibres instead of plastic. Mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of an area of soil. It is designed to conserve moisture, improve the fertility and health of the soil and control weed growth. Soil mulching also reduces the need for pesticides, fertilisers and irrigation.

    Traditionally, soil mulching materials have been made from plastic, and, most typically, from polyethylene film. While effective, plastic mulch is not biodegradable and eventually becomes waste material that has to be removed from the field and dumped or recycled at a high cost.

    It is estimated that more than a million tonnes of plastic films are used for mulching every year around the world. In addition to having to be collected from the fields, the mulch often leaves behind plastic residues, which pollute the soil and reduce its future growth potential. Yields from polluted soil are typically up to 20 per cent lower than those from non-polluted soil.

    “Walki’s Agripap solution is the only organic mulch type on the market that is made from paper instead of plastic. It is entirely biodegradable, does not contribute to plastic pollution and, instead, simply dissolves into the soil. It also reduces the need for the chemicals used to control weed growth,” says Walki’s Vice President Technical Products, Sales & Marketing, Arno Wolff.

    Walki®Agripap is made from kraft paper that is coated with a biodegradable coating layer, which slows down the degradation of the paper. Without the coating, the paper would degrade in the soil within a few weeks.

    Walki’s new organic mulching solution has been the subject of extensive field-testing in Finland. The tests, which were carried out in 2016 by independent research institute Luke Piikkiö, compared the performance of different biodegradable mulches for growing iceberg lettuce and seedling onions. The tests demonstrated that Walki’s Agripap was easy to lay on the fields and delivered excellent weed control. The results in terms of yield and durability were also good.

    “Having seen the kind of environmental impact that plastic film can have on the soil, Walki has understood that there is a need for a more sustainable mulching solution. Walki®Agripap is the perfect alternative for the farmers who care about our environment,” says Peter Martin, Technical Service & Development Director, Industrial Packaging.

    Following the successful testing and approval of Agripap in Finland and Sweden, the next step will be to complete testing in Europe’s main mulching markets: Spain, France and Italy. Farmers and equipment manufacturers wishing to participate in testing Walki’s new organic mulching solution are encouraged to get in touch with Arno Wolff.

    For more information, please contact:

    Arno Wolff
    Vice President Technical Products, Sales & Marketing
    Tel. +49 170 31 9140
    e-mail: arno.wolff@walki.com

    Walki in brief

    Walki Group is a leading producer of technical laminates and protective packaging materials, specializing in the production of fibre based, intelligent, multilaminate products for markets ranging from energy saving construction facings and construction membranes to barrier packaging applications. The Group has plants in Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK, Russia and China with a workforce of about 900 people. Annual net sales for the Group are over 300 million Euros.


    Africa Agribusiness Magazine Media by Alex Hitzemann

    Maria is a PhD student at the University of Pavia (Italy) and an early stage researcher in the Marie  Curie initial training network NASSTEC (Native Seed Science, Technology and Conservation http://www.nasstec.eu/). Maria is based at Scotia Seeds (Scotland) and her project is aimed at improving seed quality in large- scale production of native seed.

    During the 31st ISTA Congress in Tallinn, Estonia (June 14- 21), she gave a poster presentation titled: “Development of tests for seed quality in native seeds used in habitat restoration” . The objectives of the study were to assess seed quality on the EU native seed market, to develop protocols to determine conditions for dormancy breaking and germination and t o identify new approaches to seed quality evaluation in native species. Maria Marin, Scotia Seeds mariamarin@scotiaseeds.co.uk


    Early stage researcher,
    PhD student
    31 years old, Croatia


    Hi Maria, How and when did you first learn about ISTA? 

    As soon as I started my post at Scotia Seeds I was introduced to ISTA by my colleagues. ISTA’s International Rules for Seed Testing and working sheets were fundamental to my work.

    How is ISTA concretely helping you in your daily job? 

    I use ISTA’s protocols for seed testing, where available for certain plant families, as a reference for the development of testing protocols for native species.

    How do you keep in touch with ISTA work? With ISTA community? 

    At Scotia Seeds we are subscribed to the ISTA news bulletin Seed Testing International. Recently I have joined the ISTA Flower Seed Testing Committee and I am therefore involved in the committee’s activities and future plans.

    Why did you decide to attend the ISTA Congress in Tallinn last June? 

    I feel that my work is closely related with ISTA’s activities, particularly now that the Association is widening its scope to include native species so I thought that participating to the event was the best way to introduce my work and make valuable contacts. Also, I was very interested in the topics presented at the ISTA Seed Symposium.

    What are your main takeaways from this event? 

    I received great feedback on my work and was pleased to know that native seed science and restoration related topics are starting to be represented within ISTA. It was also very useful to expand my horizons beyond native species and familiarize with the seed industry and seed testing laboratories.

    This event gave me also the opportunity to deal with some practical aspects of seed science and to understand the importance of applied research, while also creating a network of valuable contacts.


    Were you able to make some useful connections for your work during the Congress? 

    Yes! I had the pleasure to meet different people and establish fruitful relationships for the future.

    Would you recommend students and young researchers to attend similar events? 

    Sure, I think that it is very important for young researchers to get involved with ISTA and participate to these events in order to understand the needs of the field they are working in and share their findings with stakeholders.

    How does it feel to be part of an ISTA Technical Committee? 

    I have recently joined the ISTA Flower Seed Testing Committee and I am very enthusiastic about it. I feel privileged to have joined this working group and hope to make valuable contributions to it.

    If ISTA should change/improve one thing, what would it be? 

    If not yet in place I would suggest to establish a fund to allow students to participate to ISTA events.

    What is your vision for future in seed testing? 

    Currently there is a lack of knowledge on native seed testing and there is no established route for access to this knowledge for producers. Therefore, future work should focus on developing standardised seed testing methods for native species and delivering them to seed producers.

    How about your own future? 

    I am focused on delivering the requirements for my PhD and NASSTEC project, while also beginning to imagine the future beyond it.

    Maria, one last word? 

    It was great taking part to the ISTA Seed Symposium, thank you! I am looking forward to the next

    By Alex Hitzemann

    This year, Russia overtook the United States as the world’s number one grain exporter. Bloomberg Businessweek dramatically announced “America is losing the Wheat Wars” due to rising competition and currency fluctuations.

    The Black Sea region has always been the primary source for grain imported into North Africa, but only recently Russia has been exporting more and more grain to Central Africa, countries that were traditionally customers of the US and Australia. Demand for grain in central Africa is at an all-time high, and is predicted to more than double in the next ten years.

    Russia’s success in this region can be attributed to a variety of factors. The plummeting Ruble has created an economic environment more favorable for Russian exports. Agribusinessmen also point to factors such as: climate change, increases in agriculture technology, a supportive government subsidy system, and good luck.

    807218433484243372MOEX: A ‘Big League” Trading Platform & Delivery Service

    Behind the scenes of these surging exports, Russia has a shiny new trading platform that’s moving grain from fields to export markets with world class technology and efficiency. Africa Agribusiness Magazine was able to sit down with some of the leaders of MOEX’s grain trading platform to learn more about their system and plans for the future.

    MOEX, the Moscow Exchange, is the largest exchange group in Russia, operating trading markets in currencies, equities, bonds, derivatives, and commodities. In December 2015, MOEX launched an innovative and advanced on-exchange grain trading platform with an integrated commodity delivery service.

    MOEX has partnered with “National Logistics Company” (a specially founded entity) to provide grain transportation to any railway station in the Russian Federation. This partnership allows MOEX to ensure grain quality throughout transportation and grain elevator loading process. Storage and transportation risks are insured and re-insured under acting insurance agreements.

    moex_trade_daigramAll of MOEX’s grain elevators must be vetted in order to insure if they are up to high standards. During the vetting process inspectors insure that the elevators are well maintained and have proper financial conditions. It’s also important that each site can test the incoming grain for protein and other quality indicators – the location must also have stable management. Basically, they make sure there are no warning signs of a possible interruption of service and all possible hazards to grain in storage are adequately assessed and approached.

    Due to this complex process, as of September 2016 only seventeen elevators have been approved. However, MOEX anticipates more than 50 elevators by next year and the number should exceed 100 in the not so distant future. The leaders of MOEX see this as just the beginning. Grain farming in Russia has huge potential for export and trading. Russia has large amounts of arable land. However, one of the biggest constraints is currently infrastructure.

    elevatorsPortions of the country, especially remote regions have limited access to railroads. A number оf  grain elevators were built some decades ago and need to be renovated. This infrastructure would need to be improved before being integrated into MOEX’s system.

    The strict standards by which MOEX vets potential elevators provides incentives for elevators across the country to improve. Elevators in their network can expect a wide range of advantages. Once accredited, elevators can expect to gain additional income from increased grain storage and turnover volumes originating from grain market trades by NAMEX trading members. Also elevators become engaged into direct agreements with a systemically important financial institution, NCC Bank. NCC Bank is responsible for clearing trades and serving operations for more than a half of Russia’s financial market participants, including the Central Bank of Russia – which guarantees a high degree of trust in the exchange infrastructure.

    moscow-exchangeAdditional advantages for MOEX elevators include access to an online commodities record system. Elevators will also benefit from MOEX’s PR, an increase in competitiveness, a confirmation of their professionalism and more stability in their work with exchange trading, financial and insurance companies.

    The MOEX exchange can be a good example for future African exchanges that seek to develop their own trading platforms. While not entirely the same, some of the challenges in Russia are similar to Sub-Saharan African countries. Russian agriculture went through a severe decline in the 1990’s after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, during the last 10 years gradual improvements have been made. Family farms are growing larger and corporate farming operations are becoming more common as agribusiness develops. Many parts of the country have seen tremendous infrastructure improvements. All of this has been catalyzed by a cooperative political climate in Russia, dedicated to agribusiness growth.

    russia-mapFrom Black Sea Ports to African Homes

    From the fields near the Black Sea to African consumers, Russian grain goes through a long journey to reach Africa. From local grain storage and elevators near farms, grain is usually first transported by trucks to major transportation hubs. In southern Russia and areas near Moscow the road and grain storage systems tend to be quite modern. But further North and East, significant improvements could be made to increase Russia’s export potential. The grain is then loaded onto trains bound for the Black Sea.

    For African exports, grains usually depart from Russia’s major trade ports on the Black Sea such as Novorossiysk. The grain is then loaded onto boats headed for ports in Africa. The cargo goes through the Turkish straights into the Mediterranean Sea and then to its destination in countries such as Egypt, Yemen, South Africa and Kenya. From these major ports Russian grain is distributed across Africa.

    Opportunities for the Future

    Analysts, such as Rabobank, predict that Sub-Saharan Africa will eclipse North Africa’s grain demand by 2025 presenting a significant opportunity for grain suppliers.

    867655306696878839“Structural differences exist between the regions, and while North Africa has the highest per capita consumption and a saturated market, Sub Saharan Africa has much smaller per capita consumption with higher potential, coupled with stronger population growth,” said Rabobank grains & oilseeds analyst Vito Martielli.

    Africa currently accounts for nearly 30% of world-wide grain imports and the demand is still growing. Increasing, almost 4% every year since 2001. In sub-Saharan countries grain imports will rise 50% in ten years. Comparatively, North Africa will only see a 15% rise.


    Francis Mwika, Mugae Location, Meru County, Kenya

    Located on the eastern side of Meru County, Mugae location is characterized by a sparse population with low and erratic rainfall resulting in an increase in food insecurity, environmental degradation and poverty levels in the county. Massive wind storms carry away the soil from the bare land making agriculture a debatable investment. This however, is home to Francis Mwika, a 47-year-old livestock farmer. Mwika has witnessed crop failures and droughts over the years. He has had to find a way to mitigate the drought effects for the wellbeing of his family of one wife and eight children. He resorted to livestock farming as a source of income. The amount he earned from his sales was used to pay school fees for his children and provide basic household needs, leaving little, if any, for savings. He had not realized the full potential of livestock farming as a business up until he was selected to be a facilitator for Farmer Field Schools (FFSs).

    With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mwika received training as a FFSs facilitator through the Kenya Semi-Arid Enhancement Support (K-SALES) project. The four-year project, implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, seeks to increase agricultural productivity and expand trade in livestock products. Through K-SALES, Mwika was equipped with the necessary knowledge to train other farmers in the FFSs on farm management and improved livestock production techniques. Mwika has formed and trained over 10 FFSs in his area comprising of 384 farmers.


    “After the training, I realized that I had taken for granted my livestock over the years. If only I knew some of the things I know now, I would have benefited a lot from my livestock then,” he says. As luck would have it, Mwika, had a chance to invest in his livestock for business. “I had to make some changes in my own home on how I reared my livestock in order to set an example to the farmers I trained.”


    untitled-4Mwika is one of the 150 farmers benefiting from Maji ya Chumvi spraying and vaccination crush, which is less than 2km away and was constructed by K-SALES. “Before the training, we never used to spray or vaccinate our animals unless they fell sick. We are very grateful for the crush constructed by K-SALES for our community, as we can now spray and vaccinate our animals regularly with ease.” Currently, Mwika sprays his livestock at least thrice every month and noted the minimized illnesses brought about by pests and diseases.


    He has embraced several lessons to help improve his livestock in terms of breeding. Last year, in order to upgrade his own local sheep, he bought an improved sheep breed, a dorper, which is hardy, fertile and fast-growing. The ewe has since given birth to lambs that are growing rather fast and fetching a higher price at the market. “Just last month, I fetched 3,000 shillings for a one-month-old lamb,” he stated. From these sales, Mwika has since acknowledged that livestock rearing is indeed rewarding, and he plans to increase the number of sheep he owns, adding that they can reproduce as often as three times in a year.


    With the dry season around the corner, Mwika has plans to pursue fodder storage as a business especially now that there is a looming food shortage in his area. He had recently stashed fodder for his own animals, but he sold it to another livestock farmer. “I knew fodder could earn me an income but not this much,” he says. “The quantity of the fodder wasn’t much but the buyer surprisingly paid 20,000 shillings for it. I was amazed, and that is when I realized there is a lot of potential in the hay business.” He also received training on financial literacy and plans to borrow a loan from Centenary Sacco, where he is an active member, to enable him to construct a proper hay barn to store his hay for sale.


    Mwika is one fortunate farmer that is headed in the right direction. However, not many people in Kenya are as fortunate as Mwika. They lack access to the required information to scale up from subsistence farming to commercial farming. By providing the required knowledge in improved livestock production techniques and technologies, more farmers can see the benefits of keeping livestock as a business venture.


    This story is brought to you by USDA and Land O’Lakes


    For media and advertising inquired contact Alexander Hitzemann at alex@africaag.org