‘The annual Grain SA awards ceremony bears testimony to the heights that can be achieved within the grain industry. It is our opportunity as Grain SA to acknowledge excellence and leadership in agriculture. Tonight, we celebrate the achievements of fellow South Africans who have excelled in their field, from the smallest to the largest – we celebrate you for your unrelenting drive to reach success despite the numerous challenges you face daily. We as Grain SA salute you.’
With these words, Richard Krige (vice-chairperson, Grain SA) set the stage for the 2023 Grain SA awards ceremony which was held at The Maslow Hotel in Pretoria on 20 October. It was a grandiose event, filled with accolades for the men and women who are directly and indirectly involved in ensuring that grain production in South Africa continues to grow.
Christian Giesel, ad interim managing director of Syngenta, the main sponsor of the evening, said in his keynote address that agriculture is more than just food production. ‘Agriculture is about environmental sustainability, economic advancement and food security for a continent that is highly affected by a variety of geopolitical scenarios. With its vast natural resources, Africa provides opportunities for all of us. In agriculture we have learnt to navigate the changing landscape to ensure growth. The remarkable achievements of farmers – big and small – need to be celebrated,’ he added.
Giesel highlighted collaboration, innovation and sustainability as three key aspects of future growth for the sector. ‘As role players in agriculture, we need to unlock our collective potential. By working together, we can strengthen our capacity to innovate and to adopt new technology for the advancement of the sector. This will ensure that South African farmers, who have proven to be resilient, stay competitive and relevant. Collaboration, innovation and sustainability are the seeds that we sow for a bountiful and beautiful harvest,’ he concluded.
Grain Producer of the Year
One of the highlights of the evening was the announcement of the winner in the category Grain SA/Syngenta Grain Producer of the Year. Derek Mathews (chairperson, Grain SA) introduced the category by reminding the audience that this was the 22nd year this award recognised the most effective and efficient grain producers in the country, but also that this award goes far beyond just agriculture. The award also emphasises the importance of producers as role models and their ability to promote profitable and sustainable grain production.
This is no less true for the winner, Pieter de Jager from Albertinia in the Western Cape, and fellow finalist, Andries Els from Bothaville in the Free State. In accepting the award, Pieter expressed his appreciation for his father, Pieter (Snr), and brother, André, who are his partners in this successful family farming enterprise. He attributes part of the success to a strong team of workers and agriculture input advisors who have become friends of the family.
‘It is impossible to farm alone and we are grateful for organisations such as Grain SA for all that they do for farmers in South Africa. Thank you also to all the sponsors who have made these awards possible. You have allowed us to be ambassadors for agriculture in South Africa,’ he added.
The convenor of the expert panel of judges and Grain SA Executive member, Jozeph du Plessis, explained that the finalists in this category were nominated by fellow producers in their region. He highlighted that the goal of these awards is to give recognition to excellence in grain farming as well as to shine a light on role models in agriculture to steer young farmers in the right direction. The awards are also important to build the image of grain farming in South Africa. ‘This is our opportunity to show what it entails to be a grain producer in this country.’ He said that during the farm visits both finalists’ passion for agriculture and precision farming were evident. ‘We are so proud of them.’
Another highlight of the Grain SA awards ceremony is the announcement of the winners in the PGP Farmer Development Programme competition. With the aim of working towards a united and prosperous agricultural sector, this programme is assisting emerging farmers to achieve increased yields, reduce production costs, improve tillage practices and market crops commercially.
Apart from hosting study groups, demonstration trials and farmers days, the initiative includes an annual Farmer of the Year competition to bolster and encourage developing farmers. During the Grain SA awards ceremony the following winners in the different categories were congratulated:
- William Raphoto: PGP/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year (250+ tons)
- Philani Khosa: PGP Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year (100 ha, but producing less than 250 tons)
- Nkosinathi Hadebe: PGP/Land Bank Smallholder Farmer of the Year (10 ha, but producing less than 250 tons)
- Busisiwe Msibi: PGP/Absa/John Deere Financial Subsistence Farmer of the Year (0 to 10 ha)
In presenting the awards, Dr Langelihle Simela (business development manager, Absa Agri Business), Antois van der Westhuizen (managing director: John Deere Financial Africa and Middle East) and Dineo Maithufi (Land Bank board member) congratulated the winners and thanked PGP for driving the farmer development programme. These sponsors agreed that the role of agriculture in society makes it imperative for financiers, input suppliers, organised agriculture and government to support farmers in their quest for a food secure South Africa.