maize-harvest-Uganda

2021 Primed for Agricultural Investment!

Welcome to REAP’s updated website.

I lead the team at Rehoboth Equatorial Agtech Partners (REAP), providing agribusiness and primary production improvement to equatorial regions of Africa, which is financially robust, while strongly rooted in sound ecological science.

The past year has been marked by unprecedented COVID-19 induced disruptions around the world. Many sectors have been plunged into multiple deep crises that will continue to reverberate for years to come. For any investor wondering how to grow their wealth in the face of wildly volatile stock markets and ten-year government bond yields firmly entrenched at around 1% APR, agriculture provides a well-proven opportunity. Being inflation-resistant and contra-cyclical to many conventional equity investments, the agriculture sector can be an excellent addition to a diversified investment portfolio, possessing the properties of a late-cycle investment with projected long-term healthy and stable growth.

Food is not optional—demand for basic agriculture commodities remains consistent, especially during the current global emergency. Everyone must eat, even during times of crisis, thus further securing the necessity for investments in agriculture now and through any potential future turmoil.

The sub-Saharan African landscape is dotted with failed agriculture ventures, characterised by ill-informed investors repeating the same old mistakes made by those before them. With more than three decades of work experience in 25 countries, I appreciate better than most the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of these investor mistakes. In the past twenty years, in four African countries, I have overseen the turnarounds of several failing farming enterprises to strong levels of productivity and business performance. Equatorial East Africa is one of the fastest developing regions of the world, and it is ripe with agri-sector opportunities for discerning investors that partner with regionally experienced management expertise.

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Soybeans Gathering Momentum

Some very exciting developments in recent months from the farms managed by reap in South Sudan. The first commercial-scale plantings of soybeans in 2020 yielded well beyond expectations, and with no in-country post-harvest processing capacity available, we had to look towards exports of the surplus production to neighbouring Uganda. These were almost certainly the first significant exports of agri-commodities in the 10 year history of this frontier nation.

Soybeans are a great plant, not only due to their unique chemical composition with around 38% protein, 20% oil, and amino acids essential for balanced feed rations to pigs and chickens, but by inserting it into a crop rotation, it creates on-farm agronomic advantages too.

With their high nutritional value, soybeans also play a key role in human nutrition. They are rich in essential amino acids, in poly-unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin B, fibre, calcium, selenium, magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc. Being high in vegetable protein, vegetarians can utilise them directly as a high-quality protein source.

Due to their highly favourable carbon-nitrogen (C:N) balance, soybeans can play a critical role in a diversified crop rotation. Such crop rotations favour enhanced soil fertility, improved soil structure, and increased crop yields as a result of leaving residual nitrogen in the soil. Under a no-tillage regime a soybeans rotation greatly reduces soil erosion, shows positive benefits in pest and disease management, and reduced impact of weeds.

A unique feature of all legumes is the symbiotic nitrogen fixation. This is a symbiosis between the plants and rhizobia bacteria in plant root nodules that gives ready access to all that “free” nitrogen in the atmosphere, rendering it into a plant-available form to benefit the current legume and subsequent non-legume crops in the rotation. Crop rotations improve biodiversity, contribute to resource savings, and enhance profitable and sustainable agricultural production.

Of the four major food grains crops in the world—maize (corn), rice, wheat and soybeans—the latter is especially interesting. Over the past 50 years, the average year-on-year increase in worldwide production of these four crops has reflected the following metrics: Maize (corn) = 2.8% p.a. increase; Rice = 1.85% p.a.; Wheat = 1.65% p.a.; and Soybeans = 4.5% p.a. (increasing from just 40 million metric tonnes in 1970 up to 360 MMTs in 2020). Soybeans are the primary protein source for a world increasingly “hungry” for protein, either directly in the form of vegetable protein, or indirectly as the major protein component for intensive animal feed rations to pigs and poultry.

The challenge (and the opportunity!), now before us is to establish profitable production of soybeans in this region when sub-Saharan Africa currently produces just 0.8% of the total world production from crops that yield only 35% of the worldwide average. The 2020 season soybean crop results from the South Sudan farms under reap management with yields at 90% of the current world average provide great encouragement for the future opportunities in East Africa.

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