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S TA P l E b u T u n c E R TA i n

W H AT i S T H E f u TuRE fOR



Keystone Milling FEATURE

While for millions of South Africa’s poorest, maize is the Number One nutritional must-have, input costs, market prices and other variables are raising some fundamental questions. But Henk Slingerland of sector leaders Keystone Milling tells South Africa Magazine that the future of the primary staple food is looking good. By Colin Chinery


nd of the Road for Maize?” - a start of year shock headline for those involved in South Africa’s biggest cereal crop and sub-Sahara’s main staple food. But with investment in better crop varieties in recent years doubling per hectare yields, maize production in South Africa has “saturated”, according to John Purchase, Chief Executive Officer of the Agricultural Business Chamber. And with maize accounting for 70 percent of the country’s grain production and sixty percent of its cropping area, agriculture industry representatives are debating how to deal with the future of this sector backbone. But from Henk Slingerland, Operations Manager of premium leader Keystone Milling, a more sanguine assessment. “The future of maize, a staple diet for the majority of the South African population, is huge, and at present the signs are that over the next few months raw maize might be in shortage in the country. “There have been excellent crops but because of the prices increasing a lot of the farmers and trading houses have been exporting to take advantage of good prices overseas. In fact there might have been an oversight on the part of the Government in that we exported rather too much.” 75

Keystone Milling FEATURE

Some strategists believe that long-term, South African growers should look at growing maize for animal feed, or even biofuel manufacture. Slingerland however is more guarded. “Animal feed is already a part of the normal milling process – a by product called chop accounting for around 30 percent, and we sell it as such. As for biofuel, at the moment this doesn’t really prevail in South Africa, we are lagging a bit behind the rest of the world.” Based in Rustenburg in the North West Province, at the foot of the Magaliesberg mountain range, Keystone Milling offers a variety of top end, high quality maize products fortified with vitamins and minerals for better health. These include super maize meal, special maize meal, samp, maize rice, braaipap, fine meal and hominy chop - used for animal feed. “Our mission is to consistently produce, sell and distribute via our own truck fleet, the highest quality products to our chosen markets by establishing a culture of excellence,” says Slingerland. The fore-runner company had been serving the local community for more than half a century when the two current directors, Hugo Ottermann and George du Toit joined Rustenburg Mill 12 years ago. They changed its strategic direction to a businessorientated approach while maintaining the established product excellence, and Keystone Milling was born. The new company rapidly addressed the demands of a very competitive industry and soon developed into a dynamic business, and a staff of 250 now serves a growing client base in North West Province, Gauteng, KZN, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.


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Keystone Milling FEATURE

With maize a staple diet in South Africa and beyond – and especially for poor communities - Slingerland stresses Keystone Milling’s wider interests and concerns. “We are very much pro socio-economic development, playing a part in lifting the living standards of everyone that buys our products. Much of our operation is performed by unskilled labour, and there’s lot of on the job training. Outside and in the wider community, we actively support a number of foundations, including HIV, Aids orphanages, and SPCA - the only animal welfare organisation in South Africa to be governed by an Act of Parliament.” Maize is the largest locally-produced field crop and the most important source of carbohydrates in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for both human and animal consumption. And South Africa is the main grower - chiefly in North West, the Free State and Mpumalanga - with an average production of about 8.9 mt a year over the past ten years. More than 8,000 commercial maize producers account for the major part of the South African crop, with the rest coming from thousands of small-scale producers.

Power Super Maize meal packaging gets a face-lift Afripack Consumer Flexibles, Africa’s award-winning packaging manufacturer, has changed the face of one of Africa’s favourite consumable products. In 2008 the industry giant joined forces with Keystone Milling to change the packaging of their Power Super Maize Meal from manual/semiautomatic fill paper bags to a fully automated, form, fill, and seal flexible pack. A first in maize meal packaging, the revolutionary new look was launched in early 2010 and the exciting makeover was recently applied to Keystone Milling’s Janpap Braaipap brand. Both the Power Super Maize Meal and Janpap Braaipap brands are supplied in polypropylene/Idpe lamination with full graphic print. What’s more, the cutting edge material is supplied in reel form. Through its successful partnership with Keystone Milling, Afripack can boast yet another pioneering achievement that will ensure it continues to be a progressive packaging company.


Not only are current international maize and grain prices far stronger than those of most other commodities, but domestic prices have been boosted by the depreciation of the rand. Since the start of this year maize prices have increased to record highs, climbing to more than R2 700 a ton for white maize and topping R2,800 a ton for yellow maize. The SA Grain Information Service reports that maize deliveries to local silos for the current marketing season increased to 9.609 million tons in the week to January 6, compared with 9.601 million tons at the end of December last year. And initial intentions to plant estimates indicate a 10 percent increase for maize, with crop prices expected to remain high until harvesting of the 2011/12 summer crops begins. With a supply chain characterised by excellent relationships and agreements, Keystone is driving its strategy of new markets and new clients. “One of our biggest

clients is CCW, a division of Wal-Mart controlled Massmart, and we have many independent and large wholesale customers. We want to grow this latter section of our business still further, as well as exporting more to countries such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere in subSahara Africa.” Keystone Milling’s biggest challenge is the pricing of raw maize and other input costs, notably fertilizers and fuel. “Many of our competitors cut their prices, and with ours being at least 10-15 percent higher it’s a big challenge in a country where a lot of the people are on the breadline. But we are countering this by campaigning, promoting and media advertising,” says Slingerland. “Keystone is a premium brand, and while our prices are significantly higher than the run of competitors, what defines our products is their outstanding quality combined with value for money, a feature resulting from having the very best extraction equipment. In a very competitive market, this is part of our secret.” END 79

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