Food Security Drives AFGRI (allAfrica.com)

AFGRI is a leading agricultural services and processing company with a core focus on grain commodities. Martin Maugustini, the Country Manager AFGRI Uganda gave East African Business Week’s Sharon Kyatusiimire some background to about their company’s operations in Uganda.

AFGRI Uganda is described as an agri-services group and has a presence in northern Uganda which is touted as a future national food basket. What is your footprint in the region and what do you do?

AFGRI Uganda is a grain management and processing company. We have also diversified into agricultural mechanization and grain store fumigation services.

We have had an excellent two-year relationship with northern Uganda and among several collaborations have trained more than 9,000 small holder farmers in Acholi sub-region on how to improve their access to markets, how to reduce post-harvest losses. And that is just the beginning.

We believe in not only the potential of northern Uganda but of the country’s farmers growing agriculture to a prolific commercial level.

Why now?

This is actually the right time for investment. There are a lot of opportunities to pursue. We have been in Uganda since July 2013.

Why not exploit the more developed agriculture sector in south west Uganda?

We intend to develop grain store sites nationwide, in the grain zones to reach our target capacity of storing 400,000 tonnes.

So far, we have four sites in operation: two in the north and two in the central region with a combined capacity of 60,000 tonnes.

Northern Uganda is still recovering from a long destructive war, what is AFGRI offering to complement government’s efforts?

Apart from our core business which is grain trading, we have also introduced mechanisation services in northern Uganda targeting large, medium and small-scale farmers.

On average, a hectare of land yields 1.5 tonnes only due to the nature of poor farming practices by small holder farmers while in developed countries it is more than six tonnes per hectare.

We are sure that with the introduction of our modern yet simple farming practices, farmers in Northern Uganda will see their yields improve as well as their quality.

Could you please give us some insight into the AFGRI-African Exchange (AFEX) partnership and what advantages Ugandans should expect from it?

Since we are not part of AFEX which is based in Kigali, I would rather talk about the upcoming Uganda National Commodity Exchange (UNCE) that will be revitalised and launched in a few weeks’ time by the President Museveni.

We are excited about this new initiative to promote warehousing generally, run a trading floor as well as operate as a regulatory body.

We hope that enforcement mechanisms will be in place so all value chain actors will operate in a formalized agricultural sector.

Do you see the electronic warehouse receipt system as a concept Ugandans will quickly take up?

Yes, the system has made progress and is easily adaptable although some bottlenecks need to be ironed out.

For small-scale farmers, who are prone to selling ungraded, un-dried grain to passing traders at much the same price as the dried grain they will get, putting crops in stores will be a challenge.

The grain sector should try to replicate what they are doing in the coffee sector in terms of enforcing quality from small holders.

Uganda, like many countries in the region has inadequate post-handling infrastructure and limited money to pay for improvements, how does AFGRI intend to help out being a private company and basically motivated by profit?

We are putting emphasis on quality differentiated pricing with incentives being given to serious and committed farmers who produce good quality maize.

We support small-scale Ugandan farmers in market creation and post-harvest loss management and intend to create a vibrant rural supply grain trade that will enable rural farmers benefit maximally from their produce.

Where else in Africa does AFGRI operate?

Apart from South Africa where we have been since 1923, we have footprints in all corners of Africa and in many other countries in years to come – in fact, our aim is to be present in almost every single country on the continent provided there is an accommodative investment climate.

AFGRI’s vision is focused on ensuring food security for the African continent.