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By 2021, HEINEKEN South Africa intends to reduce their South African malt imports significantly, as the barley that the local HEINEKEN brewery requires will be locally grown, through the company’s Barley Emerging Farmers Economic Development (BE-FED) project. Moreover, the BE-FED initiative also aims to promote the participation of commercial black farmers in the barley production supply chain within South Africa.

This project forms part of HEINEKEN’s global strategy, Brewing a Better World which advocates for responsible, local sourcing of raw materials as one of the key focus areas. HEINEKEN plans to develop a supply chain that improves quality of life for local communities, protects the environment and ensures a consistent supply of raw materials for the business. Through Brewing a Better World, the company has set forth the commitment to have 60% of agricultural raw materials used in Africa to be sourced locally within the continent.

The BE-FED project is an initiative of the local HEINEKEN team, in partnership with barley and malting specialists Malteries Soufflet, the Dutch government through the Dutch NGO ICCO Cooperation and local farming organisation Buhle Farmers’ Academy.

After launching in pilot phase in 2016 with five farmers, the project has grown to include 30 farmers over the following two years. In 2019, the initiative contracted 44 farmers from across South Africa.

Amongst other benefits and support, these farmers received an interest-free loan, insurance to protect their crops, the seeds they require, at no cost, as well as invaluable training, advice and ongoing mentoring provided by Buhle Farmers’ Academy. Mentoring forms a vital part of the project, because barley is a highly sensitive crop.

“In order to ensure that we reached and supported the right farmers for this project, who were established, had a track record of success and could make the project commercially viable, we worked with the local Leading Edge, which is an organization providing developmental support to emerging farmers through its partnership with the provincial department of agriculture and other corporate funders, says Werner Vogt, Head of Procurement at HEINEKEN South Africa.

“Our aim is to widen the participation net to additional commercial farming partners to help assist the business in delivering complete local sourcing of barley. To that end, we have already committed a significant investment of more than R2,8 million in 2018 alone, in order to support our participating commercial farming partners with interest-free loans,” adds Vogt.

“We are pleased to announce that 2018 was a huge success, as 97% of farmers that were trained and mentored, were able to meet the specifications needed for malting barley. The barley yields were also good, as all farmers that planted could repay their loans within a year period. Furthermore, our selected commercial farming partners for 2019 have already started planting as well,” says Arno van der Hoff, Farm Enterprises Manager at Buhle Farmers’ Academy.

These commercial farmer partners possess a combined 750 hectares of farming land on which they will produce around 3750 tons of barley during 2019 alone.