Steadfast ‘Oom Pietman’ retires

‘ …he has played a part in
many important milestones in the local agricultural industry.

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After 22 years as chairperson, first of  OTK as a cooperative, then as a listed company and ultimately, for the last five years, of Afgri Limited in its current form, Pieter F Erasmus has taken early retirement. “Oom Pietman” (64), as he is widely known, was born on the farm Geluksplaas in the Bethal district where he still farms today. After school he was awarded a bursary by the South African Agricultural Union to study at the University of Pretoria and obtained a BSc Degree in Agriculture. He and his wife, Anna Marie, have raised four children, one of whom now farms with them.

Pietman Erasmus was part of “the face” of Afgri over the years. He never missed a single board meeting and went to great lengths to be present at Afgri functions and events. He often travelled great distances to attend farmers’ days and was completely involved with the people he served as leader. A man of unshakeable integrity, he once admitted to an audience at a farmers’ day in Bethlehem that farmers had made a mistake in not keeping their shares in the former co-ops, such as OTK and SOK, when these were consolidated as the listed company Afgri.

This was after the 2005/06 record maize harvest when the maize price plummeted to R500 per ton. Oom Pietman knew many farmers were financially ruined and looking for someone or something to blame. Instead he offered salvation. “In the difficult times our grain farmers experience, one needs a strong business partner. Afgri knows that many clients will not be able to pay their accounts. But we will walk this path with them,” he concluded, to the loud applause of a hall full of farmers.

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With his unique combination of intellect, humour and steadfastness, Oom Pietman was appointed to the board of directors of the then OTK in 1985, and became a director of Sentraoes in 1989. In 1992 he took over as chairperson of the board of OTK (now Afgri) and, in 2000, was elected chairperson of the Sentraoes/ARS board. He also serves on the two companies’ subsidiary boards and committees, and participates in delegations, both in and outside agriculture.

Besides his role as a well-known and respected leader, he has played a part in many important milestones in the local agricultural community. Within the OTK/Afgri context, he has been involved in takeover and merger activity involving Lydenburg Voorspoed, the South East Free State and Lowveld Cooperatives and Natalagri, as well as Waltons in Australia. During his tenure, OTK was successfully converted into a company and listed on the JSE. – Staff reporter