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February 28, 2010

Grain silos to be constructed in South Africa's Eastern Cape province

Seven-million rand has been set aside to construct silos at strategic sites in the former Transkei area, in the Eastern Cape. The investment will also be linked to mills to produce maize meal and crushed maize, says government initiative for transforming farming Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa Eastern Cape (Asgisa EC) agriculture project manager Thukela Mashologu.

The mills will produce the maize products as part of Asgisa EC’s integrated dry-land (nonirrigated) cropping programme. The silos will be ready for the second maize harvest in 2010.

The first harvest overseen by Asgisa EC totalled 18 000 t of maize harvested in Butterworth, Matatiele, Mount Frere and Qumbu. 
The 2010 harvest is 
expected to exceed 42 000 t 
because the amount of land being cropped is double that of the first harvest.

Silos and milling plants are important to the economy and will lead to diversification for communities that are looking to the programme to help alleviate poverty and improve food security. The jobs to be created and the development of small business are also significant benefits of the integrated cropping programme, he explains.

A report by commercial silo owners association the Grain Silo Industry shows that most silo storage facilities are located in the Free State, Mpumalanga and the North West provinces, the leading maize producers in the country. Crop monitoring organisation the South African Grain Information Services says that there are more than 190 maize millers in the country with the Sasko mill, in Port Elizabeth, being the only large-scale milling plant in the Eastern Cape.

Mashologu explains that Asgisa EC has embarked on a request for proposals for grain milling and silo management, after which a community and a public–private partnership 
arrangement is likely to be formed for managing the grain silos and milling plants.


He says that the organisation was forced to sell the last season’s maize yield shortly after the harvest. This was a direct 
result of the lack of storage 
facilities in the area.
 “As a result, we sold our harvest at a time when there was 
adequate supply to the market, and, hence, we were unable to 
attract higher prices, which would have been the case if we could have sold the crop at a time when there was high demand and low supply. 
Obviously, this has impacted on the pricing and 
profit of the first harvest,” he says.

The current market conditions, particularly with maize production, create an opportunity to improve the competitiveness of the produce. Storage facilities will also help Asgisa EC to sell its produce in intervals and thereby ensure a fair price.

The processing of our produce will boost the province’s market share in this area and will create jobs for participating communities,” adds Mashologu.

The building of the silos is the first part of a plan to bring 
investment into the Eastern Cape. Maize is the staple food of the province’s rural communities and accounts for nearly 95% of the crops planted as part of Asgisa EC’s dry-land cropping programme. Other crops grown on a small-scale include: beans, soya beans and sunflowers. Also of interest is animal feed production that is a viable downstream investment. This will add value to the organisation’s livestock project.

Villagers from the four communities in Zingqayi, which participated in the 2008/9 planting and whose project is to expand by more than one-third in the current planting season, have 
responded by independently fixing the fencing on 114 ha of dormant land earmarked for planting for the next season.

The selection of areas for the Asgisa EC integrated cropping programme is based on adequate fencing, technical information (soil potential, climate conditions and slope), as well as community readiness (existing community cooperatives/organised structures).

An elder of the Zingqayi community, Donald Kwanele Ntshwanti, says: “We took it upon ourselves to fix the fencing to 
expand our plantations. We have faith in the Asgisa EC maize programme because our lands produced a decent yield in the last season. We are now eager to see all our lands being used in the upcoming season.”

Fires remain the biggest threat to the crops and destroyed some of the crops in the previous season, he says. “We trust that in time, our community will be given a tractor to assist in the planting process,” he adds.

Asgisa EC’s investment promotion and stakeholder relations executive manager Chuma Sangqu adds that existing community structures, such as the Chithindlala Committee, make working with villages more 
efficient.

“With the help of the Chithi-ndlala Committee, the Zingqayi community is a positive example of how rural communities are taking ownership of our projects. The Zingqayi community has taken the maize project seriously 
and is meeting us halfway with 
issues like fencing, where progress is slow,” Sangqu says.

Eastern Cape MEC for Agricul-ture and Rural Development Mbulelo Sogoni says that it is 
to see local municipalities providing funding towards the 
expansion. The Alfred Nzo district and the Mzimvubu local municipalities together donated R11-million to support the 
expansion of the project.

“The funding from the municipalities, together with the R96-million committed by Asgisa EC for this season’s dry-land cropping programme, allows us to ramp up production on arid land. Last year, more than 2 500 households benefited from the 6 700-ha planting,” Sogoni says.

Communities receive between 200 kg and 500 kg of maize for personal use. The remaining portion is sold to producers, such as bread suppliers Sasko and animal feed manufacturers. Food security is a key priority of provincial government. It enables poor 
people to earn more and to invest in themselves and their communities, explains Sogoni.

Maize farming on the Ongeluksnek farms, in Matatiele, has been very successful, with farmers in the area producing 6,5 t/ha, close to a 25 % improvement on the provincial average for small-scale plantations outside the former Transkei.

Accordingly, Asgisa EC has increased plantings in this area threefold, from 900 ha to
3 000 ha. 
The Ongeluksnek’s yield is also greater than the yield at other AsgiSA EC maize sites, such as Butterworth, Mount Frere and Qumbu.

However, Asgisa EC CEO Simpiwe Somdyala explains that silos are essential to the programme’s future sustainability and Asgisa EC has committed R7-million for establishing silos. Other challenges remain, including insufficient rain and inadequate fencing.

Asgisa EC, which initially aimed to put 500 000 ha under dry-land planting over 25 years, is reviewing its original plans. With its 12 000-ha planting, Asgisa EC expects to achieve 12% of its original 2014 dry-land cropping target, which was set at 100 000 ha.

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