Exclusive interview with Konstantinos Tsolos, owner of Emman Farming Enterprises Ltd and silver sponsor at the upcoming Agritech Expo in Zambia.
1) What products, services and projects of EFE are you most excited about at the moment?
At the moment we are excited for our animal feed products as we have seen a good response from our customers. We are opening a new warehouse in Lusaka, in order to bring our products closer to potential customers in the capital city. Also our S.E Soya Meal (Cake) is another product that we are proud of, as it has achieved the specifications we are looking for in our meal (min 46% protein). In the near future we will be looking in potential customers and markets for distributing our soya meal.
2) What makes your company competitive in this market?
Emman Farming Enterprises has invested in the latest technology to produce products that are of high quality, and at the same time reduce the production costs in the processing of raw materials. On the other hand, most of our main raw materials (Maize, Soya beans, Wheat Bran, etc.) come from sources within our region, which consequently helps in monitoring the quality of materials that are processed and secondly reduces the transportation costs.
3) Any specific projects or success stories you would like to share?
Flamingo Farms was the previous project for the Directors of Emman Farming Enterprises. We started Flamingo Farms in 1968, and it was sold in 2006. The farm was the biggest automated layers farm at the time, and has now expanded further with new directors and management. The knowledge acquired after 40 years of being in the poultry business and animal feed processing, has contributed in our current project.
4) What in your view are the main challenges for the agricultural sector in Zambia?
Agricultural sector in Zambia has grown these years, as the population in Zambia increases more companies have invested in the food industry, giving bigger potential to commercial farmers to grow different variety of crops. Challenges are many, starting from the environmental side (rain cycles affecting crop production), which may in turn affect the price of commodities directly.
Another challenge is the growth rate of new processing companies, which are growing faster then the growth rate of the population, and as a result may hurt the sector, as there will be very high competition. Government could monitor the market closely in order to secure recent investments and alternatively open the borders to domestic companies to export products that are in surplus.
Fluctuating exchange rates can also be a major challenge in costing and pricing of products, as companies import raw materials from abroad. Lastly communication in Zambia is still expensive or not up to date compared to other countries, especially for internet services. Rural areas where farms are, hardly have access to good internet services, thus hurting the development of the agricultural sector. We live in a world that is competitive and consequently, the speed in which information is acquired helps companies to change their strategies with minimum delays. Some improvement has been noticed on internet providers and facilities, but our feeling is that more needs to be done in improving communication, which in turn will help the agricultural sector to grow.
5) What advice would you give someone who is interested in investing in the Zambian agri-sector?
Zambia’s agricultural sector has the potential to grow. We believe that Zambia is a politically stable country and has all the land and natural resources to concentrate further on the agricultural sector. As long as those resources are managed efficiently, any serious future investor will gain in the farming industry as raw material is difficult to be imported from abroad due to complicated logistics and high transportation costs.
6) What is your vision for the sector, also in terms of the region?
The more small scale farmers benefit from their harvest, the better the living standards that will be established. This will help not only the agricultural sector, but also other sectors of the region. The spending power of the people will grow and as a result all sectors will benefit from such changes. On the other hand, by providing high quality animal feed at competitive prices, more people will benefit from entering the livestock sector, helping it grow even further.
7) What surprises you about this sector?
It is surprising how fast things have changed in the last five years.
8) Why did you decide to partner with AgriTech Expo?
I would like to take this chance to thank you for inviting me for an interview. One of the reasons we chose AgriTech Expo was to get bigger exposure for our products and reach potential customers that we have not managed to contact. Agritech is a well known conference with large scale exhibitors that offers, firstly, a professional outlook on the agricultural sector. Secondly a potential opportunity for further growth and lastly, it is a pleasure to contribute our views on how the sector is moving in Zambia.
9) What will be your main message at AgriTech Expo?
Efficient growth for a better future in our sector.