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International Perspective: NAMPO Harvest Days in South Africa

by May 21, 2010International Perspectives

As I write this post, I am enjoying the warm sunshine in the Freestate, South Africa. It is currently winter down here but even so, temperatures rise to 25° C (77° F) during the day. However it does drop to zero (32° F) overnight. My reason for being here is to visit our South African distributor CLM Precision Agriculture and to attend the annual NAMPO Harvest Days, which is the largest agricultural exhibition in South Africa.

]Picture shows CLM PA staff. L-R: Jan Vorster, Hanno Truter, Harvene MacDonald, Hendrik Jonker, Steyn Du Preez and Mac Nel.

CLM PA is based in Bethlehem and currently employs seven people. They also have a network of resellers throughout their area. The precision ag business is actually part of a family of businesses including land levelling, survey and construction. It is privately owned and run by a small group of directors that are actively involved in the company. CLM PA has been an Ag Leader Distributor since 2006 (though Ag Leader has had a presence in South Africa since 2000) and has built a strong business originally established around yield monitoring. Since then, the business has diversified into variable rate application (VRA), guidance and SMS software. CLM PA covers one of the largest geographical areas of all our distributors because although they are based in South Africa, they also service the whole of Africa. Apart from the sheer logistical challenges, one of the biggest challenges is to modify the Ag Leader equipment to suit African conditions. A lot of application equipment here is home-built or manufactured in South Africa. This means there are no custom kits so most installs have to be customised to suit the application at hand. But once a year, all staff from CLM PA head to Bothaville, South Africa for the NAMPO show. To give you a bit of perspective, Bothaville is about two hours southwest of the capital of South Africa, Johannesburg.

Birdseye view of NAMPO.

For the last 26 years, NAMPO has held the Harvest Days during May. The first Harvest Day was held in 1967 and then it changed to NAMPO Harvest Days in 1974. It is now held over 4 days and attracts an estimated 60,000 visitors.  It is quite an international show with companies represented from all over the world including Argentina, Brazil, the US and the UK to name but a few. Whilst the emphasis is on agricultural, there are several other exhibitors here that are involved in a diverse range of products ranging from construction equipment to safari camping gear.

Typical bakkie (pick-up truck to the rest of us!) kitted out with camping gear.

Having spent the last three days here at NAMPO, it has been a good opportunity to catch up with CLM  PA and also to meet some of their  customers. As with most of the rest of the world, the economy has had an impact on the buying capacity of the farmers. The maize price has also been low over the last few months which mean farmers have been holding on to the crop hoping that the price may increase. There does appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel though as there has been good rainfall this year which will lead to a good yield when harvest starts in the next week or two. With all this said though, the progressive farmers are still keen on the technology and are well aware of the benefits it brings. “Not only have our customers used Ag Leader products successfully for variable rate application of granular and liquid fertilisers over the past few years, but lately our vegetable farming customers have used the RTK ParaDyme steering to plant high cash vegetable crops. By using the ParaDyme steering unit they have managed to add an additional two rows of vegetables per hectare.” Hanno Truter, Managing Director CLM PA. Without the determination and willingness to overcome challenges that CLM PA has faced, the business would not be the success it is today. So as the NAMPO Harvest Days draw to a close, I find myself sitting back and enjoying the South African sunset. Despite all the challenges this country has overcome and the ones it still faces, I have to say that it is one of my favourite places to visit in the world.