This too shall pass

Published: 30 September 2020


Jannie de Villiers
CEO, Grain SA

The other day, I attended a meeting about the loss people are experiencing in the time of COVID.

Experts talked about children who had no matric farewell and who could not experience the last school year’s traditional derby. Those considering sport as a career and who had their eye on a sports bursary, had to rethink their future. Everyone experienced some sort of loss and we exchanged ideas on how to deal with it.

Grain producers know this feeling. At every turn there is a drought (or the rain comes at the wrong time) and there goes the grain quality and/or yield. Losses are also suffered due to a government department that struggles to get a wheat tariff published. We hear about so many people experiencing loss when having to wait for justice regarding someone who treated them badly, stole their property or – even worse – murdered a loved one. Some people’s loss is quite small – think of the guys who could not go hunting this year – while others, such as those who may have suffered a miscarriage, experience a much deeper feeling of loss. Another loss is the recent passing of advocate George Bizos, a friend of the producer, at the age of 92 years. We will always remember him for his legal opinion to Grain SA’s Louw Steytler regarding land reform ‘that the centre will hold’.

In our conversations with producers we hear about losses. One being mentioned more and more, is the loss of not being able to get together. Nobody liked meetings before COVID, but now we are yearning for get-togethers where we can shake hands, pat a friend on the back to express sympathy or just have something nice to eat and drink together. Laughing, making jokes and sharing plans are such an integral part of what I experience in Grain SA. There is a huge loss of ‘belonging’ that we are currently experiencing in organised agriculture. Mutual relationships support our sector, and its loss is a reality. Agriculture performed so well in a time of great need in our country – no one can doubt that. In team sports we often mention that senior players need to step forward when the big moments arrive. It was like that during COVID. Well done to all involved! It is not just talk when it comes to the important role that agriculture plays in the economy, it gets delivered – and delivered with excellence.

My wife and I sat down the other evening to make a list of all the things we would like to do after the COVID restrictions are lifted. It almost sounded like New Year’s resolutions. What quickly became clear to me was that we were missing our people. The recalibration that has to take place, is that we should cherish our mutual relationships and appreciate our times together. Being together is part of being human, even if it
is just to hold a congress or a meeting.

NAMPO Virtual could not fill that togetherness gap, but what the team put together, has definitely made us proud to be part of such a new initiative.

Spring is in the air and luckily our president’s restrictions cannot hold it back. We are going to miss some important events on the Grain SA calendar (Day of Celebration and the Grain Producer of the Year function) that will make our feeling of loss even bigger.

However, as with every drought the day will come when the rain starts to fall and that will be the end of it. Just like that the time of COVID will also come to an end.