Profitability; influence still our target

Published: 3 May 2022

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

On several occasions over the past few months, we have repeatedly confirmed that the main focus of Grain SA is the profitability of grain and oilseed producers – with our aim being to support and promote it to ensure sustainable local production.

Success in this regard is subject to a multitude of actions, functions and support that we as the grain industry must fulfil in order to make an impact. Of these, a significant part is determined by Grain SA’s ability to influence stakeholders in the food value chain, but especially the government of the day. However, in order to ‘influence’, one must understand. This means background knowledge and the ability to understand what is important for us as a country, but specifically for the broader economy, to be able to grow.

Although the term food security is being tossed around randomly these days, it is crucial that everybody – especially the government and Joe Public, including the working class – thoroughly realises that safe and adequate available food must remain affordable for all to take the country forward. Especially during the past two years, agriculture has supported and carried the economy particularly well. However, the reality is that stagflation (an era with slower economic growth, higher inflation and unemployment as well as higher interest rates) is most likely waiting for us around the next corner. Navigating through this will definitely not be easy!

During the previous meeting of our Executive, staff and executive members had the opportunity to think-tank and reflect on the biggest challenges grain and oilseed producers are facing. The group of about 50 passionate individuals was divided into five groups to brainstorm grain production challenges and solutions and it was simply amazing to detect the unanimity in the groups’ feedback. I immediately realised that these outcomes had to form the basis of our future strategy. With a large contingent of staff who went on to dissect the challenges further back at the office, the foundation was laid for our recently completed strategic planning session.

The outcome of this session, after having kicked around the ball sufficiently, was clear: Make sure that the producer is profitable and sustainable at farm level. Since this requires several functions, the ability to influence is incredibly important. To a great extent, Grain SA is like a catalyst added to a chemical reaction to accelerate the reaction in a certain way (or maybe in some cases to delay or even prevent) without being consumed by the reaction itself. The question now: How do we continue to shape Grain SA to influence meaningfully and with impact? Well, I will soon share this vision in a separate editorial and I am looking forward to the significant contribution that these proposals can make to our organisation.

Speaking about reaction: As a sporting nation we know that to score points, there has to be a full, fit and motivated team on the field, able to master the rules of the game, which also change over time. The influence of spectators entertaining each other in the stands is often negligible. Although it is not always easy or fun, it has been proven time and time again that change can be for the good.

An example is the passport system for grains and oilseeds that is appearing on the horizon. It will certainly have to be approached in the right way to be meaningful and workable, but I see a myriad of unintended benefits that could result from it, should we develop and manage the system properly. Just as elevation lines on a tractor’s GPS map and monitoring fires on security cameras were not the initial goals of such systems, for example, I foresee that those with an open-minded approach might benefit more than the food consumer who started insisting on the passport. Opportunities present themselves to us every day, but to recognise them, we must be receptive to all possibilities.

Stay well and enjoy the farm!