Agri SA appoints first black executive director in 116 years

Omri van Zyl will now head-up Agri SA Enterprises, which is wholly owned by Agri SA

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Agri SA, a 116-year-old agricultural industry association, has this evening announced Christo van der Rheede as its new executive director with its former head, Omri van Zyl, assuming the reigns of a new commercial company.

Van der Rheede, who served as Agri SA’s deputy executive director since 2015, is the first black man to rise to this top position in South African agriculture. Van Zyl is set to incubate a brand-new company called Agri SA Enterprises, which will explore partnerships between commercial agriculture and developing farming entities.

Industry insiders have long speculated that Van der Rheede (56) will rise to the top job, having gained great admiration from agricultural organisations and farmers alike. He is said to have played a significant role in helping Agri SA transition into a united and non-racial organisation.

The trained music educator started his career in 1986 at a primary school on the Cape Flats. He holds, among other qualifications, a Master’s degree in public policy and administration from Stellenbosch University’s School of Acquired Public Leadership. The greater part of his illustrious career has been in executive management positions in which he lead breakthrough turnaround-strategies at educational, cultural and business institutions.

Omri van Zyl, the new CEO of Agri SA Enterprises. Photo: Supplied

In a media release, Agri SA says it has been five years since Van Zyl was delegated to establish Agri SA Enterprises. It consists of top expertise with a firm grip on “the complex financial, production, logistical, operational and contextual dimensions of commercial partnerships and other ventures in the commercial agricultural sector”.

Agri SA Enterprises, which is wholly owned by Agri SA, has since grown exponentially, creating a need or a full-time CEO and its own board of directors. This company’s services are reportedly focused on “the food value chain and (will be) provided to a spectrum of clients. This includes the involvement, exploring, establishing and funding of commercial agricultural partnerships between established and developing farming entities.”

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Furthermore, Agri SA confirms that it will continue to focus on policy research, analysis and advocacy. Its various centres of excellence involved in policy matters on rural safety, land, natural resources, economics and trade, labour and development and disaster disk management will continue to resort under Agri SA.

READ MORE: Christo van der Rheede, a hero on the covid-19 front line


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