Seedco to place greater emphasis on open market sales as Gvts reduce input programmes


In Zimbabwe, Seed Co had been awarded 44 percent of  government tender through a structured finance deal.

SEED Co says there will be a greater emphasis of open market sales going forward after governments in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi reduced input programmes for this year. Seed Co’s model has previously been over-reliant on governments. However due to the effects of a regional economic crisis even that would struggle and as such the group would even out the effects by growing the high margin veggie seed business as well as increase its market share East Africa.

Chief executive Morgan Nzwere told analysts that major challenges for the group in the outlook come from weakening regional economies as well as erratic rainfall in the major markets the group operates in. “The government input programmes in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi have been reduced significantly so it’s a tough season ahead.”

In Zimbabwe, Seed Co had been awarded 44% of the Government tender through a structured finance deal although Nzwere noted that the total order of 3 000mt was half of last year’s programme.
“The Government order is down 50% so we are currently lobbying for Government to increase the size of the input programme.”

In Zambia, there had been pricing challenges due to the movement of the kwacha but the group was now invoicing the FISP government programme in US$ in order to protect value. The FISP programme itself was down by 39%. Nzwere said the group was now selling soya for cash while using intercompany trade as a hedge. In Malawi turnover had been affected by the withdrawal of IRLAD Programme. “The other problem is that the Malawi government announced its input programme in kwacha at 14.5 billion but the funding is not clear and worse still there are pricing challenges as the government is setting prices for the input scheme.

There were positives though, Nzwere said, and these included the move to get into the market earlier than is usually normal buoyed by the increasing demand of ultra-early maize seed varieties (SC301 and SC303) which mature faster. The group will also increase its market share in Kenya, Tanzania and DRC as these had shown impressive growth projectiles.

In Kenya, the business had been showing steady growth but the MNLD remains a challenge with new outbreaks having been recorded. Nzwere said a highlands processing facility was under construction. Tanzania volumes were up 25% on prior year although there was a late start to the rain season. “Our emphasis is now on increasing market coverage and footprint in the southern highlands.” In the CCU area, there had been an early start to the ISPAAD programme in Botswana while South Africa’s erratic rains were affecting sales. The group was still to get a major breakthrough in Ethiopia and Nigeria while payment issues were hindering the development of Rwanda.

On R & D, the group registered two soyabean varieties while two maize varieties were released in Uganda and the ultra-early was released in Kenya. Nzwere said the joint Seed Co/Limagrain projects were progressing particularly on MNLD breeding. Nzwere said the group was moving towards a ratio of 12% on research on turnover from the current 6%, in line with Limagrain policy.

The group has 50 000mt of maize seed which is available across the group and is adequate to cover anticipated demand. In terms of market sales, Nzwere said all outlets were fully stocked and merchandiser activities had increased. “The only major problem is that erratic rains have affected shelf off take and this had increased the GTI beneficiaries.

For the half year to September 30, volume sales were up 11%.   As is expected in the first half, the group reported a loss $5.56 million which was however an improvement from the negative $7.6 million reported last year. The bulk of the business 80% is played out in the second half. Finance director John Matorofa said that the narrowed loss was due to the fact that last year’s result included losses from the discontinued cotton seed business.

Turnover in the period amounted to $18.79 million, an increase of 17% on the comparable period last year. “There was an increase in volumes as we went to the market quite early in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Botswana. Maize volumes were up 23% to 6 124mt while there was a slight recovery in winter cereals (wheat and barley) to 2 819mt from 2 635mt, an increase of 7%.”  The group had also seen contribution from Prime Seeds. Prime Seeds, which Nzwere said controls 50% of the market, had contributed 9% to turnover. “The aim is to grow turnover of Prime Seeds to a 10% contribution at year end.

Matorofa said gross margins at 45% were 6% lower due to higher insurance and depreciation on revalued assets in Zambia and from the new factory in Malawi as well as price adjustments which were lower than devaluation in outside Zim operations. Other income was at $2.4 million, an increase from $88 480 last year due to exchange gains in Zambia and an increase in non-seed disposals.

Operating costs were up 26% to $15.69 million mainly driven by the incorporation of Prime Seeds. “There were also increased payroll costs in research and development as we had to hire additional experts to boost our capabilities in MLND research as well as doubled habloid work in the lab.” Matorofa also added that increased depreciation on PPE in Malawi and Zambia had also contributed to the increased overheads.  The emphasis at the moment, according to Nzwere is on cutting costs. Finance costs were down 44% as the group intensified debt collections and also managed to access cheaper bank facilities. “What is showing is the positive effects of the capital injection last year.”

On the balance sheet, PPE showed a decline but only because of the foreign exchange differences on translation of foreign denominated assets in the various business units. Matorofa said inventories rose to $39.68 million from $21.3 million due to seed intake from contract farmers. The group said out of the $45 million trade receivables, various governments across the region which owed the group $20 million at year end now owe $8.7 million. Of that amount, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which owed $4 million paid by way of TBs after year end. The group collected $26 million from debtors during the period under review.

Held to maturity investments increased to $27.18 million from $24.6 million due to additional TBs received from the Zim Government just after year end.  Bank borrowings during the period increased to $20.67 million from $11.74 million in March as the group had to fund seed deliveries from production and capex. Current liabilities increased to $27.15 million from $18.8 million due to seed deliveries not yet paid.  FinX

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