Agra thrives despite drought conditions

While effects of drought have left anguish on the faces of many farmers nationwide, agricultural firm Agra has attained significant growth over this period as evidenced by the N$757 034 growth in value traded between the year 2014 & 2015.

During drought situations, farmers are usually compelled to take the pressure off grazing by selling some of their livestock. For Agra, this has earned the firm high revenue through livestock sales at their auctions.

In the year 2014, Agra recorded a trade value of N$2 896 514 while recording an astounding figure of N$3 653 548 by the 2nd October 2015 in trade value.

The company also saw an increase in the number of shares over this period, going from 2590 235 to 2755 645 over this period. The share price also moved up from N$1.12 to N$1.33.

Agra’s Communications officer, Albe Snyman, says in times of low rainfall, the Agra retail division provides the inputs for farming, supports the industry by providing the necessary supplementary feeds and adapts stock holding of these inputs as much as possible.

“The Agra livestock division works towards accommodating the higher animal offer at commercial auctions. Aside from the traditional commercial auctions, Agra hosted 16 weaned auctions this year,” she says.

She adds that Agra Provision, Agra’s professional services division which renders various specialised services, assisted on various platforms through mentoring, consultation and sharing information with the farmers that were adversely affected by the conditions.

Topics discussed on training days included managing rangeland utilisation in years with below average rainfall, winter supplementation, adjusting herd size to forage availability with a focus on cattle herds and optimised dry land crop production.

“Agra’s livestock division plays a constant and very important role not only as a source of income for Agra, but as a marketer to our clients’ animals. It plays an

important role to develop agriculture in Namibia, thereby contributing to higher production and a larger disposable income for our clients. However, the Agra retail division is responsible for the largest part of Agra’s income stream by serving customers through 18 branches countrywide,” Snyman says.

Therefore, Agra’s long term focus remains within the agricultural sector and the company took a bold stand to develop new as well as upgrade existing sales points in the country.

“Agra is a very strong Namibian brand that is highly regarded among the local and international public. Marketing efforts continue to support and maintain the current market share and existing customer base. The Agra of today is ever-expanding and diversifying its business portfolio. New investments are made to expand, improve and add value to Agra’s products and services as well as to attract a more diverse customer base,” she says.

Thirty five years ago, Agra took over the interests of BKB to start the journey of a truly Namibian business. Now the company is busy establishing a new branch in Rundu, renting the property from where it is are going to service the community. Snyman also says renovations and upgrades to existing branches are also on the cards for the upcoming financial year.

“Agra has confidence in the future and will continue to invest and support Government to achieve Vision 2030. As a responsible corporate citizen, Agra lives its purpose of creating prosperity, improving quality of life,” Snyman explains.

On the other hand, Agra has faced challenges over the years. Snyman says the main factors affecting Agra’s business are the same factors that affect the agricultural industry. “The challenges our agricultural clients face, also become Agra’s challenges. Throughout the years of Agra’s existence, a number of drought periods were experienced,” she says.

Other challenges included market requirements or restrictions, disease breakouts and competitors entering the market. In the early years Agra had interests in various businesses such as a mill in Otavi, feed mixing plants, packaging plants for rice and pasta and insurance services.

These diverse businesses diluted Agra’s prime focus, to be a partner to every farmer in Namibia. A big challenge thus lied ahead for management to bring Agra’s focus back to its main business.

“Diversified businesses that took too much time or did not show the return on investment were sold or closed down. A number of important decisions and actions brought Agra back on track and Agra is grateful to say that it has shown growth and is still showing growth despite numerous challenges,” she says.

She adds that due to the cyclical nature of agriculture as a result of the climate and prices, the environment in which Agra operates becomes more competitive. Thus to ensure sustainable growth Agra still embarks on diversification, but within the current divisions of Agra. New investments are made to expand, improve and add value to Agra’s products and services as well as to attract a more diverse customer base.