by Sarah Anderson

Fields of barley

Promoting sustainable farming practices and increasing local input


South African Breweries (SAB) draws much of its success from the expansive barley fields of the Southern and Northern Cape that are flourishing under the care of both commercial and emerging farmers.

Agriculture remains the primary economic activity in South Africa’s rural communities, and given SAB’s size and scope of operations, the company has a significant impact on the country’s agricultural economy. This influence is met with corporate responsibility and, as part of SABMiller’s global sustainable development framework, SAB is setting an example in ensuring a prosperous future for rural communities in which it operates.

Given that barley remains SAB’s largest requirement in terms of raw agricultural material, SAB has focussed its considerable energy on a number of agricultural projects that are geared towards promoting sustainable farming practises and increasing the local agricultural input from both commercial and emerging farmers.

Better Barley Better Beer was introduced by SA in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA) as a holistic framework that focusses on environmental and social awareness by encouraging sustainable farming practises that improve the socio-economic value of a farm while protecting the environmental integrity of the land (and monitor the economic performance of producers). The project supports both commercial and emerging barley farmers in the dryland Southern Cape and the irrigated barley fields in the Northern Cape in gaining a deeper understanding of sustainable farming practises that ultimately deliver a superior grain to SAB’s Malting Houses, and consequently deliver a great tasting beer.

The noble barley grain may grow less than a centimetre high, but it really is the foundation on which many of SAB’s great beers are made.

For this reason, SAB works closely with the South African Barley Breeding Institute (SABBI) in Caledon who are responsible for developing new barley cultivars with superior yield potential, stability, and disease resistance while providing improved malting and brewing quality. It’s a laborious and delicate process where thousands of potential cultivars are put though a rigorous testing process that last up to 17 years for promising cultivars. A successful new malting barley variety will deliver incremental improvements in yield and extract potential, which translates into significant gains for both the farmer and the brewer.

Go Farming is another of SAB’s agricultural projects that focuses on the complete barley supply chain. This projects caters specifically for emerging farmers and supports the development of a sustainable, reliable and competitive barley supply chain for the breweries. Emerging farmers are assisted from the point of inception with a detailed soil analysis and any upgrades if necessary, fertilizer recommendations, and water requirement monitoring. Optimal planting times specific to the land are calculated and SAB assists with a comprehensive assessment of crop performance throughout the growth cycle. SAB’s intention is to ensure that there is a meaningful increase in profitability for the farmer and an improvement in the community’s social development.

As a part of its Vision 2030, government’ National Development Plan sees agriculture as the vehicle to create nearly one million jobs by 2030.

In order to achieve this goal, government in partnership with key stakeholders such as SAB must develop strategies that allow emerging farmers access to product-value chains within the economy. SAB’s investments in their agricultural projects is closely aligned with this strategy. According to a recent study conducted by Econex, more than 110 000 direct and indirect employment opportunities were created in rural areas through SAB’s investment in the local agricultural sectors.

The underlying objective of SAB’s agricultural projects is for the agricultural sector to become financially secure, independent and sustainable, with the capacity to provide SAB with quality raw material.

This mutually beneficial relationship allows SAB to create a robust supply chain for barley, maize, and hops; while diversifying their sourcing footprint geographically and demographically.

Emerging farmers are supported in developing sustainable farming practises and benefit through improved infrastructure, access to market, land acquisition, modern farming techniques and the positive impact their success has on economic growth within their communities.


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Issue 46


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