Congress 2021 has just concluded – a virtual one at that. And what a change it was! I was sceptical whether our producers would sit behind a screen for so many hours to reflect on their future. The team in the office were outside every possible comfort zone, but – typical to our Grain SA culture – they adapted to the novel circumstances. They did not only deliver a fantastic Congress, but they set a new standard for agriculture. The almost 1 000 visitors who followed us on YouTube, signifies a new need – that we will continue to cater for even after returning to NAMPO Park.
It was great to listen to the opinion of an international expert on our country’s quality information. This is something South Africa does not hear often: that in this day and age we can still compete with the best in the world – and with regard to something positive, not corruption! I just think that if one of the best qualified experts in the world, who leads the most important economy regarding grain supply and demand figures, says that South Africa’s data are fine and correct and of high quality, we have to start believing it, instead of listening to some keyboard warrior on social media. Let’s now consider the matter settled and keep on trying to even improve it.
The interactive conversations dealing with infrastructure, logistics and especially exports, indicated to me that our producers are looking to the future. We want to produce more. ‘Grain SA, you have to find markets and ensure that we can export,’ is what I heard. The ghosts from the past regarding ‘planting less’ have certainly been put to rest. The demand for soybeans is growing so much now that it has a better balancing effect on maize supplies than asking producers to plant less. That is positive! Dr Justin Choe from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also indicated that, as long as the large economies are growing, they foresee a sustainable growth in meat consumption and consequently grain consumption. This is good news for our grain prices.
When one serves in a leadership position, it usually feels like walking in the dark – only now and then seeing a streak of light on what the road ahead looks like. When your leadership is questioned by the people you lead, it is not only dark, but also uphill with many obstacles in the way.
Together with the COVID pandemic and all its consequences, Grain SA’s leadership also experienced disquiet among grain producers regarding the market’s credibility. We had to unify and put our heads together on how to handle the situation: Keep to the facts, don’t panic and continue to do the right thing. This was the recipe that the leaders handed out and applied. After all the input and questions at Congress, the producers had to cast their votes on the results of the recipe. All the leaders were re-elected, levy increases were approved and a special levy has even been granted to keep Grain SA strong and healthy to meet the next challenge.
We owe our leaders and members a big thank you for showing the way forward with this attitude and that we are not dividing the ranks and becoming weaker. The future remains uncertain, but our mandate from the members was very clear and evident: Keep an eye on our sustainability; profitable grain production; develop our people on every level and protect the soil on which we farm so that our children can continue to live from it.
Onwards, Grain SA!