The luxury of ceteris paribus

Published: 8 April 2022

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Pieter Taljaard
CEO, Grain SA pieter@grainsa.co.za

And so, the next event came, causing new shocks and uncertainty. It was probably not much different in the past, but I am convinced that the waves are systematically coming in faster and faster. Just when we thought COVID was behind us and that trends (especially fertiliser prices) were stabilising, Eastern Europe started making trouble. Late in January a young man still made me laugh when he remarked: ‘When it was still COVID …’ Now the focus is on the next challenge, the next excuse?

What a privilege and how wonderful it was to talk to producers at no less than 30 regional meetings over the past six weeks before Congress, meeting new friends (and old ones). One thing is evident: how incredibly positive – and I want to call it resilient, because it is more than just adaptable – South African producers are. In the midst of everything we experience, you are looking forward, you have already made plans and are seeking advice on how to refine those plans in order to just get by and to adapt to the next challenge. It is simply fantastic to experience it.

However, the highlight of the series of regional meetings was the Grain SA Congress that took place in the first week of March at NAMPO Park. I would like to thank everyone who made the time to come to Bothaville and I hope every producer, service provider and business found the event valuable. Thank you also for the incredible spirit in which it was held.

Increasingly complicating things at the moment, is the reality that ceteris paribus (other things being equal) really only applies in the classroom and office. The age-old concept or condition is extremely important and useful if we want to better understand or quantify variables, but in reality, this complex society is constantly changing. That is why we need one another – not only to help each other, but also to design the future together and thus be able to exert the necessary influence on various levels. It is precisely for this reason that a unanimous agricultural message must be conveyed.

Probably the biggest challenge is to make our fellow participants better understand what we do and where the finish line is. We have to understand what is going on in each other’s worlds in order to help and support one another. It has become clearer than ever to me over the past few months that the information overload of today’s social media and electronic era is the big culprit – therefore our enormous challenge to get the relevant information to the right ears. Furthermore, it is extremely important that the information is conveyed technically correct in order to clear up misunderstandings and misrepresentations or misconceptions.

Due to the communication challenge that we are facing, it is crucial for the Grain SA team to liaise directly with role-players and specifically with producers. I would like to end with a comment from one of the regional meetings: ‘Why haven’t you long since told us what you do and what you are busy with? Then we would pay the levies with a smile.’ My request to you is to please help us distribute the ‘understanding’, so that we can distribute the load.

Good luck with all the challenges and I sincerely hope we see one another soon @NAMPO22!