‘Be positive and make use of opportunities’

In 2022, the ALS Group, managed by Cas Joubert, his brother Thys, and partner Johan van Rensburg, was recognised as the Agricultural Writers SA Farmer of the Year for 2022. Joubert spoke to Magda du Toit.

‘Be positive and make use of opportunities’
Cas Joubert
Photo: Supplied
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How would you describe your management approach?
We play the ball as it bounces on the field. Our main focus in recent years has been to involve the next generation in such a way that they can live out their passion within the economic parameters of the business.

Are there other opportunities you’re pursuing?
We’re positive about agriculture, and are always looking for new opportunities to expand vertically and horizontally if it makes business sense. For example, we would like to close the loops in the value chains. At present, we’re producing maize meal, and are keen to do the same with soya bean. We also run cattle, and would like to become more involved in that value chain.

What are the plans for the business over the next five to 10 years?
We’re conducting a feasibility study on a soya bean extrusion plant. We also aim to improve our cattle herd’s genetics and become involved in the retail side of the beef value chain. We already have a system in place for mutton and plan to follow the same recipe.
In addition, we produce Wagyu beef and pecan nuts, and would like to expand on these divisions, especially to earn forex.

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What are your biggest challenges?
It was challenging to find the best way to integrate the next generation into the business so they can add value without stepping on each other’s toes. We’re essentially a family business, so it’s important for us to involve the next generation in a sustainable way.

Which aspects of the business are important to you?
Proper planning and the improvement of our soils, in particular. Diversification is always at the back of our minds, but all plans are based on sound financial principles and the realities of the time. We carry out detailed financial planning to ensure that we don’t bite off more than we can chew. We have a saying in the office: the inlet pipe of the dam must always be bigger than the outlet pipe.

Are there any changes in agriculture generally that you would make if you could?
We need to change the perception that farmers are not able to work together. Where we as farmers work and stand together, the results are phenomenal. Six years ago, for example, we started the VS Grower Group and today we have 200 members. During this time, we’ve been able to put approximately R50 million back into farmers’ pockets and have grown our members’ shares by a further R50 million.

How do you see the future of agriculture in South Africa?
As I’ve mentioned, I’m optimistic about agriculture in the country. I believe that we as farmers can create our own future, and should accept responsibility and become involved in our communities. By doing this, we can overcome challenges.

We should carry a message of hope and not complain constantly and create a morbid environment. How will our children become involved in farming if we make the environment look unattractive and the future bleak?

What would your advice be to other farmers?
Goals are attainable if you work hard, have patience, and take small steps. Live your passion. Manage your debt. Balance your life and make time for your family, friends and faith.

Email Cas Joubert at [email protected]