As Mzansi braces itself for another possible ban on alcohol sales, FarmSol reports a rise in the number of profitable farmers on their books. The agricultural development organisation says their total pay-out increased from R16.5 million in 2019 to R19.5 million in 2020.
This, says FarmSol managing director Aron Kole, is despite the severe disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially for its wine farmers.
Kole says uncertainties caused by the previous sales bans forced its up-and-coming farmers to downscale support from their planned hectares.
The company also had to implement salary cuts, stopped bonus payments, and put moratoriums on vacant positions.
Meanwhile FarmSol beneficiaries had their own problems to deal with.
“Our beneficiaries experienced several challenges, ranging from disruptions in logistics and transport, to worries about the demand for their barley crops. They were also concerned over how they would stay in touch and share information, including how they would be supported by our agronomists,” Kole says.
Off-take agreements honoured
FarmSol says they could give farmers peace of mind regarding their off-take agreements by assuring them that SAB would honour their contracts.
“This helped our farmers to focus on the things they could actually control, such as striving for the best yields possible.”
Furthermore, the company harnessed WhatsApp and social media to maintain regular contact between agronomists and beneficiaries. Regular advice on harvesting, logistics and general information on all things related to Covid-19 were shared with farmers.
Maureen Magubane, who farms in Mooirivier in KwaZulu-Natal, says 2020 was a tough year.
“I actually made a loss in the 2020 season on my 50 hectares of maize, because of planting mistakes, damages suffered from roaming cattle, fire damage from a neighbouring farm, and then all the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
However, things are looking much better for Magubane this year.
“We have been looking for funding from government to banks for many years, but FarmSol was the first to give us a break.
“With their financial aid and support services, I will be planting a total of 100 hectares and with lessons learned from the past season, I am positive to achieve higher yields and better quality than in 2020.”
A pretty good year
From a production side, the year in general turned out better than expected, thanks to favourable climatic conditions in most regions except for the Western Cape, where rainfall during harvesting caused problems with barley quality.
“Fortunately, FarmSol had supported farmers in the Western Cape to plant other crops such as wheat, which helped to compensate for losses if their barley did not make malting grade,” says Kole.
Supported by, among others, the South African Breweries, FarmSol supports new era farmers by giving them access to markets, funding, extension services and mechanisation solutions. Their aim is to turn their smallholder clients into sustainable commercial producers.