Mining Angola's golden harvest in Malanje province
Angola’s Malanje Province is once again becoming a breadbasket. This farm is one of the largest. It's growing corn for the number-one beer producer in the country. Business Angola went to meet one international company that is betting on and investing in Malanje Province.
The French-based Castel Group has started a farm to grow corn in Malanje to save on importing the crop. It's coarsely milled into grits that are used to brew their top-selling Angolan beers.
They're developing it in stages, having bought a 5,000-hectare concession from the government.
The farm’s boss, Sebastien Ducroquet, drove Euronews across the Fazenda Socamia to see the harvest - there are two per year thanks to the warm weather. This year they expect a yield of about 3,000 tonnes.
Ducroquet explained why the area is so interesting for agriculture:
"We are just along the Kwanza River, which borders our property for 5 kilometres. Since we’re going to do irrigation, it’s ideal to have a large river right nearby. Then the soil is of good quality, and we have good access by road to the capital Luanda. So to export the production, that’s really an advantage."
Making use of the Kwanza River, the farm plans to begin installing sprinkler irrigation this year to boost production.
And the company has even more plans for investment in the years ahead, Ducroquet says:
"In 2020 we will install silos for a storage capacity of 20000 tonnes, with a dryer for the corn. In five or six years, we will certainly install a corn mill to produce grits on the farm, to provide grits for our breweries."
To have enough grits for Castel’s nine breweries, they’ll also outsource, supporting the development of the local economy.
"We will buy corn from other farms of the same kind as ours in Angola, and we will buy some corn as well from small producers around our farm," Ducroquet says.
The Long View
One of those breweries lies west of Angola's capital, Luanda, and it produces thousands of bottles per hour.
Philippe Frédéric is the director of Castel Group in Angola head of the Castel Group in Angola, a company that has invested in the country for 25 years and employs some 5,000 people.
"It's worth it because it's a country that is geographically very large, with a relatively large potential, and a young population. Today, we know well that Angola has enormous agricultural potential for cereal production."
Frédéric says that kind of diversification, and import substitution, not only helps the economy but his company as well:
"It's attractive because today we import most of our raw materials. It's logical that the main industries her try now to domestically produce the raw materials that are possible to make."
If this kind of diversification makes sense for business, and also for financial institutions like Standard Bank.
Yonne Castro is an Executive Board Member at Standard Bank, Angola:
"The potential of Malanje province is immense. It is one of the provinces that have greater agricultural potential, not only for its fertile soils, for having abundant water, and also for its great potential for tourism."
That´s why, for many, corn is Angola's gold - and Malanje province a great place to invest.