Young producers have their say at Congress

Published: 12 April 2023

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

What an excellent first quarter it was for Grain SA regarding direct contact with grain producers at various regional meetings as well as at the recent Congress!

Very evident is the incredible positivity, the willingness to ask questions and to help make plans. More specifically the calibre of plans and ideas you have come up with – all of this despite the situation we find ourselves in daily and the challenges we have to face. I thank you; it was fantastic and a huge privilege. It makes me happy to see that grain producers are doing so well and that everyone is willing to try and help make things better, especially our Grain SA organisation. I personally appreciate it very much.

From the feedback about Congress, it appears as if many of the 210 delegates enjoyed and appreciated it. I am pleased to share a few observations and some of the feedback. An interesting statistic from the survey shows that almost 60% of this year’s delegates are younger than 45, with 7% younger than 25. Across the board these guys did not miss the chance to share the microphone with the older men on several occasions.

I have to admit it was a jam-packed Congress programme, but despite the normal administrative actions, we were still able to achieve valuable dialogue. This is important because we have a strategic focus to involve younger producers more actively in Grain SA. The feedback showed us once again that the way we deal with our organisation’s affairs will also have to adapt to the audience.

The five most important risk factors shared by delegates, include: availability and cost of energy; the changing climate and associated higher risks; theft and unrest; sluggishly decreasing input costs (sticky prices); and – last but definitely not least – the overall decay of infrastructure and service delivery. When delegates were asked to share advice with fellow producers on how to manage risk factors, it was beautiful to see that faith and hope were almost among the first pieces of advice offered. Along with that, thorough planning, risk management, wise investment and cash flow management, diversification and hard work summed up the rest of the advice nicely.

We know that input financing has been a key issue over the past year with the rising input prices. A short survey has shown that these days two thirds of the delegates make use of a commercial bank’s input cost production facility. Furthermore, the relevant interest rate determines only half of the choice regarding financing institution, while the service that goes with it, impacts another third of decisions.

Closer to home – and valuable feedback for us – is that the delegates consider ‘lack of information about what Grain SA is doing’ and that ‘the amount payable on total grain production is too much’ as the two most important factors why grain producers do not pay their voluntary Grain SA levies in full. The answer to a broader member base therefore lies firstly in effective communication and secondly in the development of Grain SA’s value proposition.

An important aspect that we will have to address is the request for online pre-registration and other administrative procedures (thus less administrative matters on the Congress agenda); as well as even more discussion time for producer delegates.

Finally, it remains Grain SA’s business to focus on promoting the sustainable profitability of local grain production. I thank everyone for each constructive piece of commentary, wisdom and input to help – it is important. Thank you for your support and the ownership you take, it makes it easier for us to change and adapt.

All the best with the new small grain crop that will soon be planted – and for sure also with harvesting all the soybeans. We believe and trust it will be another blessed harvest.