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Free State Business 2022

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OVERVIEW Agriculture

OVERVIEW Agriculture Transnet Freight Rail aims to double grain volumes. Eleven mill workers in Bethlehem shared a celebration with their place of work in 2021 – all of them started at the SASKO Bethlehem Mill (pictured) when it opened in 1991. The mill has a total of 96 employees and mills 144 000 tons of wheat every year. Three production lines are responsible for cake flour and whitebread flour and a blending facility makes brown-bread meal and complete mixes. Bethlehem was chosen because of its proximity to excellent wheat-producing areas and for its strategic location in terms of logistics: the busy N3 freeway is just 90km away. Engineering News reported in June 2021 that Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) plans to double volumes of grain transported out of its Bethlehem facility. VKB Agriculture is one of the companies that will benefit if TFR can increase its capacity to 550 000 tons for the season, as it plans. Veld fires caused serious damage in 2020 in parts of the Lejweleputswa District. More than 100 farms and 100 000ha were affected. When these fires were followed by flooding, a disaster was declared by the Provincial Government of the Free State in order to facilitate emergency aid. Provincial initiatives Initiatives of the Provincial Government of the Free State to improve access to the sector for previously excluded people include: • The Chicky Piggy piggery in the Xhariep District, which has been constructed and is operational. The facility has a bio-security facility, office block, laundry, a reservoir, a tractor and a splitter tanker. • The Free State Poultry Hub Investment Plan which is targeting Virginia, Parys, Frankfort and Reitz. Five agri-parks are being constructed in each of the Free State’s district municipalities. The concept brings together farmers, traders and agro-processors at convenient sites. Support for rural smallholders will be available in terms of equipment hire from a central source, storage facilities, packaging of produce and getting products to market. As part of the agri-parks programme a warehouse is under construction at Springfontein and the Thaba Nchu abattoir is being upgraded. In Sediba, Farmer Production Support Units supplied SECTOR INSIGHT SASKO’s Bethlehem Mill is celebrating three decades of milling. a tractor and implements to participants. Key to the growth of these small-scale operations is access to finance and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) is a key role-player in the Free State. The launch of the Maluti-A-Phofung Special Economic Zone (MAP SEZ) has created another platform to boost the agro-processing and agro-logistics sectors. Company news The Agriculture RSA division of chemical group Omnia has bought Oro Agri Opportunities, a producer of agriculture biologicals, for a reported 0-million. The purchase of a 21% stake in BKB by VKB has given the latter company extended geographical reach and opportunities in new markets. While VKB is strongest in the Free State and Limpopo with a grain focus, BKB is wellestablished in the Eastern Cape, deals mainly in wool and mohair and runs many auctions. VKB is already a diverse group, with the capacity to FREE STATE BUSINESS 2022 28

OVERVIEW produce soybean meal and soybean cake and flour from its plants, mills and factories. Grain Field Chickens, a large abattoir in Reitz, is one of the company’s biggest facilities in the province. The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which has a 23% stake in the project, aims to help develop the Free State as the poultry hub of South Africa. VKB has six agro-processing companies including VKB Flour Mills and Free State Oil and is active in auctioning, storage, packaging and fuel sales, among other activities. VKB’s headquarters are in Reitz in the eastern part of the province and the group is one of the province’s largest employers. The Imbani Homsek Group is an integrated dairy-products producer with one of the biggest Ayrshire herds in the world. The head office of Country Bird Holdings is in Bloemfontein: its brands are Supreme Chicken, Nutri Feeds and Ross (breeding). Country Bird Logistics controls 45 chilled and frozen vans. Clover has three factories in the Free State: Bethlehem (milk powder, whey mixtures and creamers); Frankfort (butter, the largest such factory in the country, where ghee and roller dried ONLINE RESOURCES Credit: SASKO Agricultural Research Council: Bothaville: Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development: Grain SA: milk powder is also made) and in Heilbron (whey, buttermilk, condensed milk and packaging). When lockdown restrictions are not in place, Bothaville hosts the country’s largest agricultural festival, NAMPO Harvest Day. In 2019, Grain SA’s big day had 775 exhibitors catering to 81 345 visitors. Bothaville is on the western edge of the Free State and the town falls under the North West in the organisational chart of giant agricultural company Senwes, which has its headquarters in Klerksdorp. The rest of the Free State is divided into three regions by Senwes, which deals with about 20% of the country’s oilseeds and grain through its 68 silos. The province supplies significant proportions of the nation’s sorghum (53%), sunflowers (45%), potatoes (33%), groundnuts (32%), dry beans (26%), wool (24%) and almost all of its cherries (90%). Red meat and dairy are other important products. Game hunting is a significant sector, and several large Free State farms have been converted from stock to game farms. Crop production represents about two-thirds of the province’s gross agricultural income. The main crops are maize and wheat. Sunflowers, sunflower seeds, sorghum and soy beans are other major crops. The Mangaung Fresh Produce Market plays a vital role in the sector, catering as it does to householders, bulk buyers, informal traders, agents and farmers. ■ 29 FREE STATE BUSINESS 2022

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