Word through the agricultural grapevine is that Willie Jacobs, a seasoned agriculturalist has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of Potatoes SA.
He replaces Dr Andre Jooste who had a fractious tenure at Potatoes SA. The potatoes body, which represents the interests of commercial potato farmers in South Africa, is yet to release an official statement pertaining to Jacobs appointment.
But who is Willie Jacobs?
An agricultural economist by profession, Willie cut his teeth in agricultural finance having worked for Deloitte, Land Bank and Obaro Financial Services.
During his tenure at Land Bank, Jacobs was brought in to amalgamate agricultural economics and advisory which took off steadily in advising the bank’s loan strategy.
It was during this period in 2017, the bank acquired partnerships with Service Level Agreement (SLA) business partners such as Capital Harvest, which land bank took over its debtors’ book.
Criticised by government technocrats for its securization structure (the conversion of an asset, especially a loan, into marketable securities, typically for the purpose of raising cash by selling them), it is here where the bank allowed its SLA business partner to provide further financing to clients even, though the likelihood of loan non-collection would highly occur.
In 2017, Jacobs resigned from the bank and joined one of the banks SLA business partners, Obaro Financial Services.
Jacobs, like Jooste, would have to ply his stakeholder skills carefully in a combative industry such as the potatoes industry.
In his first year at Potatoes SA in 2012, Dr Andre Jooste, a livestock specialist, had a torrid time in putting governance structures at the organisation.
“Jooste saw the importance and growth of the industry tied to applying for statutory measures (a levy) in order to finance the activities of the potatoes industry including transformation which was moving at a snails when he took over,” said a former colleague.
High on the agenda for Jacobs is addressing the high potato prices in the country, elevating transformation and funding potatoes research studies.