Group Grower Agriculture Head in South Africa

Kincannon & Reed has been retained to recruit a Group Estate Agriculture Head for a diversified international food, ingredients, and retail group with sales of GBP 15.8 billion and 138,000 employees, operating in 48 different countries.

The Company

They are Africa’s biggest sugar producer and have extensive agricultural and manufacturing operations in six African countries. The group produces raw and refined sugar for local, regional African, EU, USA and world markets from sugar cane supplied by its own agricultural operations and independent outgrowers who supply cane to the Company’s factories. High-value products manufactured downstream of the sugar production process in Malawi and Zambia are sold internationally into niche markets. Installed electricity generating capacity, fueled by renewable resources, annually provides around 90% of the group’s energy requirements.  The group is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Associated British Foods plc (ABF), a diversified international food, ingredients and retail group operating in 48 countries.

The group’s countries of operation provide good climatic and soil conditions, which, accompanied by irrigation from secure and sustainable water sources, are ideal for the cultivation of high-yielding and high-quality sugar cane resulting in the annual production of approximately six million tons of sugar cane. Combined with cane supplied by independent outgrowers in all six countries of operation, the group has the capacity to produce more than two million tons of sugar annually. Combined with cane supplied by independent outgrowers in all six countries of operation, the group has the capacity to produce more than two million tons of sugar annually.

They employ more than 12 000 people in permanent positions across the group, with a further 18,000 people employed on a temporary basis. The group is a major supplier of sugar to the consumer and industrial markets in its own countries of operation and to neighbouring regional African markets, using an extensive network of distribution and logistics channels. It also exports sugar to the EU and USA and, through the South African sugar industry, sells sugar into the world market. Syrup and speciality sugars are produced in South Africa and Zambia mainly for domestic consumption, while speciality sugars made in Malawi and Zambia are produced for preferential markets in the EU and in the case of Malawi, also for the USA. Their aim is to ensure reliable cost-effective energy supply utilising bagasse and biomass generated from its operations and to export power into the national grids of the countries in which they operate.

The Company has a proud history of significant contribution to local economies where it operates and its positive social impact across the region on rural communities is substantial. The group’s total economic impact, including direct, indirect and induced impacts, was estimated at R 23.8 billion in 2017. In order to be a successful company on the continent, the group strives to be an invested citizen of the countries where it operates and the region. Their focus is therefore on creating an environment in which both the group’s businesses and its communities thrive in a mutually-beneficial manner.

The Company’s first presence in South Africa can be traced back to KwaZulu-Natal in 1891. Their corporate head office provides strategic, financial, operational, technical, commercial, human resources, and corporate support to its extensive operations across six African countries. The operations of the Company include the cultivation of sugar cane and the production of raw and refined sugar, syrup together with, the downstream products of furfural, furfuryl alcohol, Agriguard, diacetyl, 2.3-pentanedione, and ethanol, together with lactulose. Their sugar markets are largely domestic, with sales to the world raw sugar market. Downstream products are primarily export-focused. The company also operates a state-of-the-art sugar warehouse and distribution centre providing a strategic link between its sugar factories KwaZulu-Natal and its nationally-based customers. There are six sugar producers in South Africa with combined production of around 2 million tons. There are 3 agricultural estates, 4 sugar factories, one refinery, and 3 wholly-owned downstream plants. There are 2,228 permanent employees and around 1,646 seasonal agricultural workers at peak periods.

The Position

The Group Estate Agricultural Head will be located in South Africa, head up a team of 3-4 people, and report into the Group Operations & People Director. The main remit of this role will be to develop the medium and long-term Estate AgricultureStrategy (“Illovo way of Agriculture”). The role will partner with group functions and in-country teams to provide strategic guidance in estate agriculture. The Job Incumbent will lead the development of estate agriculture capabilities throughout the organisation to ensure a sustainable cane supply.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Set direction and strategy as champion of “Illovo Way of Agriculture” through ongoing farming system modernisation, capability building, and performance optimisation, to ensure Illovo becomes the best in class sugar producer in Africa
  • Optimise the function by holding Estate Agriculture accountable to the highest standards of asset management, cane quality (production), and farming productivity, whilst meeting the required crop volume at the optimal cost
  • Provide Countries and Estates with tools and access to world-class practices and expertise to support operations capability development in-country, and enable realisation of full potential
  • Ensure the required quantity, productivity, and quality of output is achieved at optimal cost
  • Oversee, set, and assure group-wide internal and external minimum standards and processes for Crop Production, Agronomy, Engineering, Farming Systems, and Innovation
  • Ensuring best practices and minimum standards and processes are easily accessible and regularly updated on Illovo platforms
  • Staying current with applicable developments in Ag technology and enabling implementation
  • Oversee and sign off on regular internal/external benchmarking required to support continuous improvement
  • Build local Estate Agriculture expertise to reduce reliance on and assistance from the Group Head Office by overseeing the creation and distribution of training and learning materials
  • Provide technical support to the Grower Agriculture function
  • Develop standards and policies for grower value proposition and optimisation
  • Oversee provision of technical expertise to Grower Agriculture through respective CoEs in Estate Agriculture
  • Oversee and sign off on regular internal/external benchmarking required to support continuous improvement
  • Build local Estate Agriculture expertise to reduce reliance on and assistance from the Group Head Office by overseeing the creation and distribution of training and learning materials
  • Ensure the best talent is placed in critical Estate Agriculture roles across the organisation 
  • Ensure performance management is best-in-class across the Agriculture function
  • Promote a culture of continuous improvement and provide world-class learning, coaching, support, and development to Agriculture Management
  • Promote and adhere to Illovo SHERQ procedure, policy, and guidelines

Education, skills, and personal characteristics:

  • A degree in Agriculture or equivalent
  • Experience with sugar cane or other row crops
  • 10 years senior management experience with 5 years at least managing an agricultural operation
  • Strong relationship builder, able to build and establish networks quickly
  • Experience working across a matrix environment, with strong influencing and persuasive skills
  • Has gained experience at the forefront of agriculture technology (drip irrigation, the use of drones, efficient warehousing)
  • Ability to set the strategic direction and ensure alignment with a range of stakeholders
  • A strong business and financial acumen
  • Action-oriented, demonstrates a sense of urgency, ensuring that action plans are implemented and acted upon
  • Ability to challenge the status quo and to promote new ideas and initiatives
  • Curious and open-minded, willing to look for novel solutions
  • Culturally sensitive, able to work with people from different cultures

Position Interest Form

Tell us a bit about yourself.

    Resume Upload

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.