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South Africa’s RCL Foods expands in pet food to beat drought

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Environment

RANDFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africa’s RCL Foods has completed a 123 million rand ($10 million) expansion at its pet food plant to help reduce its exposure to a poultry business hit by drought and cheap imports.

Food companies in South Africa have been struggling with an El NiƱo-induced drought that drove up the price of ingredients such as maize, while poultry farmers have also faced competition from Brazil, the European Union and the United States.

RCL is aiming to tap into the country’s 5 billion rand ($418 million) a year pet food industry, which is less exposed to individual commodities, as part of a strategy to diversify, CEO Miles Dally said at a plant visit late on Thursday.

“Ideally we would like less impact from things like drought and dumping,” he said.

“Our vision has always been clear, to create a major food business,” he added, referring to the pet food division.

RCL’s expansion in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, will boost its pet food production to 12,000 tonnes per month from 7,000 tonnes.

The company, which saw first-half profit plunge 54 percent last year, this week reported an increase for the first six months of its current financial year, boosted by a decline in input costs and higher chicken prices.

The firm cited lower poultry imports, which were reduced in part by an outbreak of bird flu in Europe.

RCL’s pet food business, which has annual revenue of around 1 billion rand, aims to grow by as much as 20 percent per year, Dally said, adding the firm would look for acquisitions to bolster the business.

The company currently produces over 20 brands including Rainbow chicken products, Nola mayonnaise, Yum Yum peanut butter, Bobtail dog food and Selati sugar products.

RCL cut 1,350 jobs and reduced production by 50 percent at its Hammersdale factory in the KwaZulu-Natal province in November 2016 as the chicken imports and drought took a toll.

($1 = 11.9204 rand)


(By Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia and Mark Potter)

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South Africa’s AECI sees growth in water treatment after drought hits continent

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Environment, Technology

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African chemicals group AECI could increase revenue from its desalination and water treatment business by up to 80 percent over the next five years after a severe drought hit Africa, its CEO said.

South Africa was declared a national disaster this month after drought afflicted Cape Town and other areas, and Kenya, Malawi, Mozbuambique and most of southern Africa have also experienced low rainfall.

AECI, which also makes explosives and announced a sharp rise in earnings on Tuesday, sees revenue growth coming from its subsidiary ImproChem, a water, air and energy management company.

“We have to manage our water a lot better as a continent and I think ImproChem can play a big role in that and that will boost sales on those opportunities,” Chief Executive Mark Dytor told Reuters in a phone interview.

Revenue from AECI’s water treatment unit rose 3 percent in 2017 to 1.409 billion rand ($121 million), Dytor said, and he expects them to rise by between 50 and 80 percent over the next five years.

Cape Town and other parts of South Africa suffering from drought have pledged to use desalination plants and underground water reserves and AECI has applied for government tenders for desalination projects in Cape Town.

Since the current drought in the Western Cape, ImproChem has sold some desalination plants in Cape Town to private sector operators, Dytor said.

“We have already sold five desalination plants, that’s into the private sector, they give from between 500,000 litres to 1 million litres a day of water that is treated from sea water,” he said.

AECI, which has business in Africa, Australia, Indonesia and South America, said its headline earnings per share rose 17 percent for 2017 to 959 cents, thanks to a global recovery in the resources sector.


($1 = 11.6680 rand)


(By Tanisha Heiberg;Editing by James Macharia and Susan Fenton)

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Zimbabwe bans grain imports after higher maize output

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe has banned grain imports to protect local farmers after producing enough to meet domestic demand, a government minister said on Tuesday, just a year after a devastating drought left more than 4 million people in need of food aid.

The southern African nation’s grain agency has also raised $200 million from the government and private sector to purchase maize from farmers, the Herald newspaper said.

The national treasury last week forecast output of the staple maize at 2.1 million tonnes this year, from 511,000 tonnes in 2016.

“It is true we have banned all grain imports because we have produced enough this year and also because we need to protect our local farmers,” Davis Mharapira, the deputy minister of agriculture said.

Mharapira said the Grain Marketing Board would pay $390 per tonne for white maize, almost triple the $143 for the September contract for white maize in South Africa, one of the countries from which Zimbabwe has previously imported maize.

The deputy minister said the higher price would encourage farmers to produce more maize while the import ban would make it impossible for dealers to buy the grain abroad and resell it at a higher price locally.

Zimbabwe has since 2001 been importing maize to meet domestic demand of 1.8 million tonnes, blamed in part on seizures of white-owned farms by the government of President Robert Mugabe that hit commercial agriculture production.

Mharapira said the national strategic grain reserve was holding 180,000 tonnes of maize, far below its targeted requirements of between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes.


(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Mark Potter)

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South Africa’s growth outlook dilemma for central bank, treasury

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s central bank could resume its rate hiking cycle despite a poor growth outlook, its head said on Friday, while its treasury reined in state companies to avoid ratings downgrades and a long economic slowdown.

Africa’s most industrialised country is on the brink of its first recession after contracting 1.2 percent in the first quarter as key sectors shrunk due to severe drought and falling commodity prices.

Governor Lesetja Kganyago said the central bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) would raise rates if inflation, fuelled in part by a weaker rand, remained elevated.

The rand has weakened nearly 20 percent against the dollar in past 12 months as looming rate hikes in the United States, the threat of a downgrades to “junk” status and diminished business and consumer activity locally weighed on its value.

“Although the MPC remains ready to respond to renewed inflation pressures, it remains mindful of the weak state of the economy,” Kganyago said.

Headline inflation has been higher than the Reserve Bank’s (SARB) upper target of 6 percent since January, prompting it to lift lending rates by 200 basis points from early 2014 despite poor growth.

The bank sees growth averaging zero percent in 2016.

“The rand exchange rate has been sensitive to these developments, with elevated levels of volatility,” said Kganyago said, adding the next round of rating reviews in December were key.

South Africa is also in a fiscal bind, with government’s plan to boost growth to an annual 4 percent to tame widespread unemployment, poverty and the growing cost of borrowing facing a number of obstacles.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan on Friday warned state firms that they would have to live without state bailouts of around $35 billion as treasury focused on achieving the deep spending cuts it promised in the February budget.

“The key concern that ratings agencies and others would have is that as a result of levels of mismanagement, those guarantees shouldn’t be called out at any stage,” he said.

On Monday, Fitch announced it had downgraded South Africa’s local currency debt. Fitch and S&P Global Ratings now both have South Africa’s local and foreign currency debt ratings a step away from subinvestment.

Maya Senussi of Roubini Global Economics said local government elections on Aug. 3, where the ruling African National Congress is expected to face a stern test, could worsen the dilemma for government before the general election in 2019.

“The big danger is that fears about the 2019 general election will prompt populist measures from the ANC, exerting more pressure on the stretched Treasury and further delaying much-needed reforms,” the economist said.

($1 = 14.1600 rand)


(By Mfuneko Toyana. Additional reporting by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by James Macharia and Tom Heneghan)

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South Africa’s Astral weighs job cuts as drought, imports hurt poultry producers

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African poultry producer Astral has to cut jobs, it said on Wednesday, under pressure from high feed prices due to drought and from an over-supplied domestic market.

Maize prices in South Africa have hit record highs as an El Nino triggers the largest rainfall shortages in over a century, while cheap chicken imports flood in with the ending of punitive duties on U.S. chicken imports in 2015.

Analysts said production cuts were likely to be accompanied by mergers and acquisitions as companies across the food sector scramble to offset falling revenues.

“A lot of producers are suffering under current conditions and a lot them will be forced to become very, very competitive,” said Global Trader equities analyst Paul Chakaduka.

Shares in Astral slipped more than 4 percent on Wednesday after the firm delivered its operational update.

It said the impact of rising feed costs, record poultry imports and a weak consumer market was more severe than it had originally anticipated.

“The impact of the planned production cutbacks will unfortunately negatively impact on the labour force due to the reduction in hours to be worked,” Astral said.

The company employs about 13,000 people across operations in South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Swaziland, with a combined processing capacity of nearly 5 million broiler chickens a week.

Astral said it had implemented an import strategy to hedge against maize shortages and high prices, but if conditions did not improve it would have to consider further cuts to production and jobs.

Government expects the 2016 maize harvest to come in 28 percent lower at 7.16 million tonnes, with an improved harvest only in 2017 with a return of more rainfall.

Astral’s fellow poultry producers RCL Foods and Quantum Foods have also struggled in 2016, both citing the effect of drought, costlier raw materials, and lower demand made worse by high unemployment and climbing food inflation.

In May, Quantum reported headline earnings per share at 14.8 cents versus 26.3 cents in 2015. RCL reported HEPS up 25 percent to 87.2 cents, higher due to its diversified products.

Astral previously said it saw HEPS falling around 30 percent to between 801 cents and 701 cents per share for the six months to end March.

Share prices in all three of the poultry producers are lower compared to a year ago.

“These stocks may continue to become cheaper but it doesn’t mean they’re in buy territory. It only means they’ve become extremely uncompetitive or that you could see further mergers and acquisitions in the sector,” Chakaduka said.


(By Mfuneko Toyana. Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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Zimbabwe to import 250,000 tonnes of maize from Mexico

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

HARARE (Reuters) – Drought-hit Zimbabwean will import more than 250,000 tonnes of maize from Mexico to fill the shortfall caused by the severe drought sweeping through the southern Africa, the agriculture minister said on Thursday.

Joseph Made said Zimbabwe would also import the staple crop from neighbours South Africa and Zambia, as well as from the Ukraine but did not give precise figures for these imports.

“We anticipate anyway upwards of 250,000 tonnes will be coming from Mexico. The other maize will obviously be coming from Zambia as well some from South Africa and Ukraine,” Made told reporters.

An El Nino-induced drought has hit southern Africa, slashing the output of the staple maize crop.

Zimbabwe’s government previously said the drought forced it to cut the 2015 growth forecast to 1.5 percent from 3.2 percent, with the 2016 output unlikely to be any better.

The U.N. World Food Programme said earlier in June that output in Zimbabwe would fall below 60 percent of the five-year average of between 700,000 and 1 million tonnes.


(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia)

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African Union insurance arm to boost disaster cover to $1.5 bln

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

LUSAKA (Reuters) – The African Union’s insurance arm will increase its disaster cover to $1.5 billion by 2020 from $179 million currently following one of the continent’s worst droughts in decades, a senior executive said on Thursday.

Drought has ravaged much of southern Africa this year and Malawi’s government said on Wednesday half its population is in need of food aid due to the prolonged dry period.

African Risk Capacity (ARC) now plans to expand insurance coverage against drought, floods and cyclones to more than 150 million Africans in disaster risk in 30 countries.

“The idea is to make sure that when trouble comes, the resources are available on time,” ARC Director-General Mohamed Beavogui told Reuters. “If I know that drought might happen and what the magnitude is, I can plan for it.”

Niger, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Malawi, Mauritania and Kenya have already bought insurance from ARC while Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso and Madagascar are expected to buy drought cover in the next month, Beavogui said.

ARC plans to introduce a tropical cyclone insurance later this year and flood insurance in 2017. The impact of climate change is resulting in more severe droughts, floods and cyclones across Africa, Beavogui said.

Last year, Senegal received a payout of over $16 million from ARC after paying a premium of $3 million following a poor agricultural season due to severe drought in 2014.

The G7 Summit in Germany last year adopted an initiative on Climate Risk Insurance which aims to increase access to cover against the impacts of climate change for up to 400 million of the most vulnerable people in developing countries by 2020.


(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Joe Brock)

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Zimbabwe economy ravaged by drought, needs bold reforms

Comments (0) Africa, Latest Updates from Reuters, Politics

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s economic difficulties have deepened after drought weakened agricultural production and disrupted hydro power generation and the southern African nation needs bold reforms, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

“Unless the country takes bold reforms, the economic difficulties will continue in (the) medium-term,” the fund said in a statement after a consultation with Zimbabwean officials.


(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Writing by TJ Strydom; Editing by James Macharia)

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South Africa must admit national drought crisis to help farmers

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa must formally declare a national disaster for the government to release relief funds to help farmers through the worst drought in a century, the country’s largest grain producer group said on Wednesday.

While higher than expected January plantings saw Grain SA reduce its 2016 maize imports figure to 3.8 million tonnes from 5 million tonnes previously, late seeding has put young plants at high risk from extreme weather over their growth cycle.

With five out of nine provinces labelled disaster zones due to drought, the country now needs to acknowledge the situation nationally as farmers are starting to capitulate, Grain SA Chief Executive Jannie de Villiers told Reuters.

“Our Minister of Agriculture is well informed but I think we need leadership to declare it a disaster so that the process can be triggered,” he said.

The Agriculture Ministry did not immediately respond to request for comment by email and phone.

Should a national disaster be declared, emergency relief funds would be released from the National Treasury to eligible farmers. However, any funding would probably come too late to secure the future of farmers on the brink of going bankrupt or selling their holdings, De Villiers said.

The Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North West provinces have been declared disaster zones for agriculture as a blistering drought sucks moisture from the soil and dam levels fall, causing a delay in planting crops for the crucial southern hemisphere summer season.

The South African Weather service said last week the El Nino weather pattern which triggered the historic drought is expected to persist, toughening the situation for farmers who scrambled to plant crops when rains started.

Farmers of cattle, sheep and goats have been urged by the government to cut the sizes of their herds as the drought has scorched grazing land and the 2016 maize harvest is expected to fall 25 percent from last year to 7.44 million tonnes.

Industry sources say food prices may rise 20 percent or more this year, putting upward pressure on overall inflation, which rose to 5.2 percent in December from 4.8 percent in November.

The most traded July white maize contract closed 1.6 percent higher at 4,943 rand a tonne on Wednesday. White maize for delivery in March is trading near record highs above 5,000 rand a tonne.

De Villiers also signalled trouble ahead for the subsequent crop season, saying farmers would struggle to obtain crop finance after this year’s disaster and restrictions on insurance for lost income.

“Can the farmers plant again if they don’t have crop finance? If they can’t pay their debt the farmers are not going to plant next year even if its raining.”


(By Zandi Shabalala. Reporting by Veronica Brown and Zandi Shabalala; editing by James Macharia and David Clarke)

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South Africa white maize at record high, drought concerns mount

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Mounting jitters about a searing drought pushed South African white maize prices to record highs on Friday and traders said the ceiling had not been reached as farmers fail to plant in the Free State province.

The rand’s plunge to record lows has also spurred the rally, which has serious implications for the inflation outlook in Africa’s most advanced economy as white maize is the main source of calories for lower-income households.

South Africa’s central bank, which is in a tightening cycle, has repeatedly voiced concern about the drought and food prices.

The December white maize contract, which expires next week, was 0.6 percent higher at 4,140 rand a tonne after scaling a peak of 4,160 rand, according to Thomson Reuters data.

“Some relief rain fell yesterday and last night but it is still too little in the Free State and there are still farmers there who have not planted yet,” said Piet Faure, a trader at CJS Securities.

The weather forecast for the next two weeks in maize-growing areas of the Free State is also not good, traders said. Farmers who have not yet planted will soon run out of time to do so.

An El Nino weather pattern has exacerbated the drought and follows a bad last harvest when dry conditions shriveled the crop by a third to 9.94 million tonnes, the lowest since 2007.


(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Ed Cropley)

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