Nampo rocks Free State

Nampo rocks Free State

Nampo’s annual Harvest Day continues to attract farmers in their droves from across the length and breadth of South Africa. FOCUS travelled to the outskirts of Bothaville in the Free State to find out what the hype’s all about.

Popularly known as Harvest Day, the Nampo four-day agricultural show ranks high on most farmers’ calendars. It’s also an important event for manufacturers and distributors servicing the agricultural sector, providing them with a platform from which to display their latest “must-haves” to the nation’s farming community and related industry representatives.

Traditionally held from Tuesday to Friday during mid-May, the Nampo show is organised annually by Grain South Africa and provides manufacturers and distributors with a unique opportunity to interact directly with their clients, forging partnerships to the benefit of everyone concerned. Against the backdrop of the rich cultural heritage for which the farming community is renowned, this year’s show – with its theme, “See the world of agriculture” – included more than 650 exhibitors spread over an area of 24 ha, with practical demonstrations taking place over approximately 80 ha. The atmosphere was one of optimism as participants and exhibitors alike expressed hope in signs that the devastating global recession was at last beginning to loosen its grip.

Nampo rocks Free StateWhile attendance at the first Nampo Harvest Day in 1967 – organised especially for maize farmers – was a mere 200, this year’s event saw a massive influx of over 68 900 visitors. Some towns along main routes to the event also embraced its spirit of community hospitality, with many residents of Parys braaing along its streets.

Nampo Park became the show’s permanent home in 1974 and – after growing steadily each year since – the event is now one of the largest privately organised and owned exhibitions in the world. It is also the southern hemisphere’s leading  agricultural machinery and livestock expo, displaying and demonstrating a vast array of products to an ever-growing target market. This year, the show attracted approximately 40 international exhibitors from the United States, Argentina and Australia, as well as 650 exhibitors from home soil.

As Jub Jubelius, president of the Nampo Harvest Day, pointed out: “With grain producers regularly confronted by adverse grain and agricultural commodity prices, increased efficiency and sounder planning is essential.  With the information, advice and solutions we offer visitors, Harvest Day is more than a family outing: in fact, it is a business visit to the world of agriculture.”

Nampo 2010 wasn’t just visually appealing: certain exhibitors offered controlled practical demonstrations of machinery and implements, allowing farmers to see and experience first-hand the performance and impact of an impressive range of products aimed at meeting the ever-changing needs of the modern-day farmer.

Predictably, exhibition stands from the commercial transport sector looked stunning. Toyota’s biggest Hilux display ever, showcased the Legend 40 in various guises, offering visitors the opportunity to experience the country’s favourite bakkie on a special 4×4 track for exclusive, Hilux-only use.

Ford exhibited a variety of vehicles from its current product range. These included the Ford Everest; Ranger Super Cab; and the recently launched, limited edition Ranger Wildtrak – all of which were available for more adventurous visitors to try on the show’s 4×4 track. The proudly South African Ford Bantam also featured in the Ford display.

In addition, Ford used the event to offer the public a sneak peak of the soon-to-be-launched Ford Figo. “Nampo provides a unique opportunity for us to interact with the farming community, whose members are very important to Ford,” said Ben Pillay, Ford marketing manager. “This year we have chosen to give Nampo show-goers the unique opportunity of viewing the Ford Figo, due to be launched in South Africa in July. It’s an exciting introduction for us, and we’re sure the public will be equally enthusiastic about getting a closer look at the new hatch,” he added.

Ford brand ambassador, Springbok rugby star Bismarck du Plessis, was on hand to meet and greet Ford fans, giving away four signed rugby jerseys during the course of the event. And, because Ford is the proud vehicle sponsor of the South African rugby team, Bismarck became the latest Springbok ace to take delivery of a Ranger 4×4 Double Cab. “We’re delighted to have Bismarck representing the Ford brand,” Pillay said. “He’s an important member of the South African rugby team and a hero to many South Africans.”

Anyone who used Nampo’s fast-growing shuttle service over the duration of the festival would have noticed that MNampo rocks Free StateAN Truck & Bus’ involvement with Nampo started with the company’s making available 79-seater MAN HB4 Lion’s Explorers and 32-seater Volkswagen midi-buses for those in need of the service. The company also had a variety of vehicles – aimed at both agriculture and general transport applications – on show. These ranged from tippers to long wheel base vehicles, and the 18 t MAN TGM.

According to Frans de Wet, team leader of MAN Centre South region, who coordinated the MAN Truck & Bus stand at Nampo, the MAN TGM attracted much attention, with three sold so far as a direct result of the company’s Nampo participation. This vehicle can be used for local distribution, heavy-duty traffic or building sites. The MAN TGM frame accommodates a variety of applications. Any length of superstructure up to eight metres can be accepted onto the back of the 18-tonner. The ECAS control unit regulates the vehicle’s height for a consistent driving level under any loading conditions. Different loading ramp heights are no problem as a hand unit can raise or lower the vehicle within a 28 cm range.

It boasts a comfortable ergonomically superior cab with a lot of headroom and a generous bed for rest periods. Whether it’s the C cab for long haul or L cab for daily distribution the wide-opening doors won’tNampo rocks Free State exasperate drivers and their passengers. Once inside the cab a foot-operated button makes the steering wheel easily adjustable in height and rake. The driver can call up information like oil level on a central instrument panel. The roof storage space for luggage is the largest in its class.

With this array of features it’s no surprise that MAN obtained three orders at Nampo. In addition, the company also acquired about 200 “leads” from potential buyers, across the choice of MAN models. Their financial standing is now being verified. “So far 12 deals have been signed,” says De Wet. This compares very favourably with last year where, on the back of the recession, only two truck deals were struck.

Another vehicle that attracted considerable attention on the MAN Truck & Bus stand was the uber impressive Volkswagen Constellation 19-320, which graced the cover of FOCUS last month. De Wet confirmed that three of these trucks were sold. They boast maximum torque of 1288 Nm at 1 300 to1 600 r/min and maximum power of 235 kW at 2 000 r/min.

The much anticipated Volkswagen Amarok also made its first appearance on South African soil. As Graeme Birch, marketing manager of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “The Nampo show presented us with an ideal opportunity to introduce the Amarok to the South African public. Visitors to the Nampo show are mainly farmers, who are amongst our key target customers for the Amarok.”

Those interested in seeing this soon-to-be released legend had the opportunity to meet Amarok brand ambassador, former racing ace Sarel van der Merwe, who took some lucky visitors onto the off-road course to experience the Amarok’s amazing capabilities. The double cab is expected to be launched locally during the third quarter of 2010, and the single cab during the first quarter of 2011.

Another rugby legend – former South African lock, Kobus Wiese – was also spotted at the UD Trucks (formally Nissan Diesel) stand, greeting fans and visitors as well as signing autographs for his supporters. As usual, UD’s visually outstanding exhibition highlighted all its biggest sellers, with knowledgeable sales personnel on hand to assist with any queries.

It was the UD 100 that generated the most interest, because of the product’s obvious appeal to farmers. With standard cattle rails, the UD 100 makes the vehicle ideal for transporting livestock. Because Nissan Diesel has been operating in South Africa for just under 50 years, the company has had the opportunity to offer its customers a vast range of products over time – catering for diverse customers needs, including those of the farming community.

Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles had a strong presence at the show – its product line-up at Nampo ranged from the very latest Actros to the Vito Crew Bus. Included in the show-stopping display was also the one-of-a-kind Unimog. The Van division was offering special “Vantastic” deals on the Vito, Viano and Sprinter range, through servicing dealer, John Williams Motors Bloemfontein.

Various Sprinters – including a freight carrier and a freight carrier 4×4 with specialised body conversions – attracted the attention of many a farmer while the Freightliner Argosy, with its Detroit Diesel engine, was impossible to miss. Mitsubishi Fuso premiered its new Canter range, which is now fitted with turbocharged Euro 2 engines.

Nampo rocks Free StateBut – as is generally the case with commercial vehicles – different brands and their products attracted different people, depending on their specific applications. Hence, motor vehicle manufacturers from South Africa and abroad were well represented at this year’s Nampo, including Hino, Isuzu Trucks, Iveco and Scania. 2010 was Scania’s second year as an exhibitor, and this highly respected truck manufacturer used the event to hand over one of its Truck of the Year R-series to an overjoyed customer.

Yet another Swedish manufacturer – Volvo – also had a strong presence at the show. Its 900m2 exhibit was large enough for Volvo to easily present five heavy models – a FH440 6×4 with globetrotter, FH400 6×4, FH480 6×4, FH400 4×2 and an FM440.  Volvo customers’ units were also on show – from both Reinhardt Transport and Goldfield Logistics.

Mark Erasmus, vice president, sales & marketing of Volvo Southern Africa, was more than pleased with the measurable results of being at Nampo. “We signed deals for five trucks,” said Erasmus, “with approximately 20 leads on new vehicles including four on used vehicles. And the customers arrived from all over South Africa.”

Afrit sales manager, Leon van de Wetering, was delighted with the volume of interest generated by the expo. “I’ve seen a substantially better turn out than last year and – because the people that come to Nampo exhibits are mostly interested in buying your product – this is encouraging to manufacturers. There are no tyre-kickers here! In current market conditions, a dedicated show is always going to attract good customers who are genuinely interested in what we’re showcasing.”

According to Van de Wetering, Afrit’s side-tipper was the company’s biggest seller between 2007 and 2009; but last year, with the economic slow-down and lower exports of iron ore to China, Afrit didn’t sell any… “Suddenly tippers had no work, but now that market segment is booming again and they make up 60% of the work we’re doing.” But at this year’s Harvest Day, Afrit decided to focus on its grain bottom dumper. “We’re trying to attract farmers who carry their own maize, so with its massive payload of 38 tons, the Afrit dedicated maize and grain tipper offers more than most,”  Van de Wetering said.

By all accounts, this year’s Nampo was the hottest yet: not only in terms of sheer size and impact, but because of the quality and variety of products on display. No wonder it’s compared so favourably with the Rand Easter Show. Many of its visitors prefer Nampo Harvest Day, and with good reason…

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