Looking back on the year 2019, it was one with a meagre yield, except perhaps for the Rugby World Cup! The expectations of more clarity on land reform and a master plan for agriculture that can take the sector into the future did not realise after all. Perhaps in 2020!
The optimism of grain producers everywhere is contagious for the Grain SA team, and we look forward to new outcomes in 2020 for major agricultural issues. The long-awaited development fund for new farmers has also not realised yet, but good progress has been made. The poultry master plan has been completed and that for the rest of the sector is at an advanced stage. Like always, the implementation of this plan will determine its outcome, and not the thorough consultations during the process of compiling it.
We will also have enormous challenges in organised agriculture to make adjustments for the times ahead. Nobody can avoid change. I reckon that the economy – and not farming politics – will play a bigger role in future in determining the direction in which we are going.
The new planting season definitely started off better than in 2018. The rain in the east was late, but then again there were wet fields in the west in November. Let us hope that the 2020 season can bring recovery. With recovery I do not mean just the bank balance, but also emotional balance. There is no shortage of challenges in the country, and particularly not in agriculture. The instability we experience in all areas cause our emotions of pleasure (when there is stability) to turn to anger (when there is too little stability). This is where good governance is really needed now. Yet I have learnt that our organised agriculture peers in other countries are more coordinated, despite the fact that their governments also cause a lot of instability. This was the message from our agricultural team that recently met with the BRICS countries in Brazil.
Perhaps we should consult with Rassie. If we are stymied at the negotiation table, we lose more than just the cup! If structural unity is not feasible now, we will have to start looking for another alternative. Our disagreement and division will cost us dearly on international playing fields too. I recently listened to a world leader who emphasised how important it is to look for the right things to be changed. This is exactly where I still experience a lot of discord among our agricultural leaders. Many of them want the economy to grow, but others have little concern for the economy and only want to do something about transformation. The secret is surely that we just have to do the one in order to survive, and then not fail to do the other.
I am sure that we will one day read in the history of South Africa how the years before 2020 left scars on the country. The deep wounds caused by the droughts and the doomed Zuma era will probably heal in time, but the memories will always be there for everybody to see.
I want to conclude on a positive note, with the hope that 2020 will go down in history as a turning point. May the change in the climate and the willingness to make a difference of those who still care and want to stay in the country (like Grain SA) set the tone in bringing about change.
All the best for 2020!