SPONSOR INTERVIEW: “Although big projects are essential to the food security and economy of countries in Africa, it is equally important to find ways of bringing the smaller farmers into the agricultural economy”

1)    Let’s start with some background on your organisation and the work that you do, particularly in the agri sector?
Chief Industries UK Ltd, based in Maldon, England, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chief Industries Inc. of the United States. In addition, there is a further subsidiary, Phenix Rousies Industries, based in Maubeuge, France.

Chief Inc. is a conglomerate of 8 core companies and a number of divisions, three of which, Chief Agri/Industrial Division, Chief UK, and Phenix, are manufacturers of grain storage and handling equipment.
We have been serving agriculture and industry since 1954.

We manufacture grain storage silos, grain dryers, grain elevators, conveyors, and aeration equipment. We are also project engineers and will give advice and help customers to plan precisely for their needs.

Equipment is manufactured and supplied to suit anything from a small farm storage project, co-operatives, through mills, strategic storage, up to ports and harbour installations.

2)    Which current projects are you particularly excited about at the moment?
We have a number of projects on the go at the moment in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We are particularly excited about the on-going work we have in Uganda, which we consider to be an important market for us, with great potential to be a major supplier of grain to neighbouring countries.

3)    What in your view are the main challenges facing the agri sector in East Africa?
In my view, the main challenge facing the agricultural sector is post-harvest losses. Once the grain has been harvested it will decrease in quantity, quality and value unless it is properly looked after. Apart from the private operators, the main challenge is funding for the small-scale farmer to create the infrastructure to protect his or her grain, not only to ensure sufficient for themselves, but also as a cash crop.

4)    Any success stories/case studies that you can share?

We have a large number of success stories in many countries, going back over 30 years. It is hard to single out projects. We are as equally proud of the smallest on-farm installation that has satisfied a customer’s needs as we are of the 72 000 tonne port storage project at Port Qasim, Pakistan, on land reclaimed from the sea, or the 7 enormous grain dryers we have erected in Ukraine.

5)    What is your vision for the industry?
This is an essential and growing industry. With more and more mouths to feed and, quite often the grain in one place and the people who need it in another, we have to innovate and find greater efficiencies.

6)    What surprises you about this sector?
There are few surprises in this sector. It is unromantic but essential. If you watch farmers at agricultural exhibitions they will always gather around and be excited by farm machinery, tractors, combine harvesters etc. and only think about what they are going to do with their grain after they have harvested it.

7)    You are a sponsor at the upcoming Agri Business Congress East Africa. What will be your message at the event?
My message will be that although the big projects are essential to the food security and economy of countries in Africa, it is equally important to find ways of bringing the smaller farmers into the agricultural economy. And to all potential buyers, I would say that the quality of equipment they buy is essential. Shortcuts lead to shortfalls.

8)  How was the experience last year?
Last year’s event was very worthwhile attending. We were able to meet our existing customers in a relaxed and focused environment and make new and potentially rewarding contacts.

9)    What are you most looking forward to at Agribusiness Congress East Africa?
We are looking forward to catching up with all our customers past and present, hearing what comes out of the conference, and making new contacts.