Agricultural private equity fund Agri-Vie (www.agrivie.com) will reach its target of raising $100 million for investment in agricultural projects by February or March, according to an interview with Reuters newsagency on 14 January. It says there is plenty of potential and plans a second fund of up to $300 million.
Earlier in January the fund, launched in March 2008, made 2 investments totalling $10 mln in 2 agricultural projects in Ethiopia and across the region, and it is close to finalizing a $4 mln investment in Tanzania.
Izak Strauss, executive director and chief investment officer, told Reuters they are also considering a second fund: “There is definitely an opportunity to do a second fund substantially larger than the first fund… probably (in the region of) $200 to $300 million.” This could launch in 2013 or 2014.
Agri-Vie, based in Cape Town, focuses on equity investments in a wide range of agribusiness in Sub-Saharan Africa, including processing and distribution. It is backed by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (www.dbsa.org) and private entities including W.K. Kellogg Foundation (www.wkkf.org).
Agriculture in Africa appears set for transformation from unproductive and undeveloped subsistence farming to more commercial farming as investors from Europe, Asia and the Middle East get large tracts of land and launch projects, often to tackle food insecurity in their own countries.
In the interview, Mr Strauss said Agri-Vie plans to invest up to $25 million into five new projects during 2010, including a new $4 million eco-tourism project in Tanzania.
Agri-Vie forecasts fast economic growth in East Africa, which it calls an “investment hotspot”.
He said Agri-Vie this month invested $6.7 million in New Forests Company (www.newforestscompany.com), a UK-based sustainable and socially responsible forestry company with established, rapidly growing plantations and prospects of diversified products for local and regional export markets. It has operations in Uganda as well as Tanzania, Rwanda and Mozambique. East Africa has been a net importer of sawn timber and electrical poles and NFC aims to replace these imports with locally-produced goods. NFC’s overall aim is to “deliver both attractive returns to investors and significant social and environmental benefits”, according to its website.
The company also invested $3.5 million in africaJUICE (www.africajuice.com), run by European and African entrepreneurs and establishing fruit production and processing operations to capture share in European and the Middle Eastern juice markets. The first farm is in Upper Awash in the Oromia region. africaJUICE claims the combination of ideal growing conditions in the area and Ethiopia’s closeness to target markets should help displace European companies’ reliance on importing fruit products from South America.
The company website says: “We plan to establish at least three production locations across Africa by 2014 and become a premier supplier of Fair Trade juice to the European market.”
Strauss said: “Its first operation is in Ethiopia, growing yellow passion fruit, mango and papaya… The first exports will happen from mid-this year.” africaJUICE is making a capital investment of some €12 million to rehabilitate and expand an existing state-owned fruit farm (“Tibila Farm”) to create a high-technology modern tropical fruit plantation and build a new processing facility, operating under Fair Trade principles.
According to africaJUICE’s website: “Our plan is to plant approximately 600 hectares of yellow passion fruit and 600 hectares of other tropical fruits such as mango and papaya over a period of four years. At the same time we will support the development of over 1,200 hectares of outgrowers (contract farmers) to supplement the supply and extend community participation. Our new fruit processing facility will produce pure juices, concentrates and purees which will be transported to market via established export routes.”
David O’Halloran, Director of africaJUICE, told African Capital Markets News: “Having started operations on the ground early in 2009, we are pleased with the progress so far on the new fruit plantings, infrastructure, operating approach and the processing plant and looking forward to juice production from mid-2010 onwards. We have also made substantial progress following our sustainable development philosophy with a number of initiatives underway or already executed and are excited that this new approach to development and investment is progressing well. We are also progressing well on the second and third projects and expect to be considering funding options for those in the coming 12-24 months”.