That’s what farmers do

Derek Mathews, chairperson of Grain SA
Published: 12 December 2023

With the festive season upon us, Grain SA chairperson, Derek Mathews, reflects on the world of grain production during the past year.

It is that time of year again where we look back on the year that has passed as well as look forward to the new year to come. It’s quite incredible how much has happened in our lives in the past year. We get so involved in doing what has to be done now, making sure we don’t miss anything that we don’t spend any time taking in the good things that happen along the way.

When I sit back and reflect on 2023, I see a year that went well on our farm despite below average rainfall and resulting lower yields on maize specifically. What will stick in my mind about the 2023 crop is a midsummer drought of epic proportions. Eight weeks from 14 December to 8 February without rain and high temperatures to go along. That we managed to harvest a crop is the pure blessing of the residual moisture from the 2022 season. Looking at how we as South African grain producers have fared, we can only be grateful for yet another year of blessings. 2023 saw us delivering enough maize to feed our country and export substantial amounts to other nations that need our grains.

In the grip of high input inflation, with some minor reprieves on fertiliser and chemical prices, we live to plant another crop. That’s what farmers do.

Particularly good is the first soybean exports that went to China. This is good for our soybean producers and great for the grain industry as a whole. Exporting bulk grains (despite all the logistic challenges) progresses well and it’s hard to believe how much we manage to get out of the country in the absence of a functioning railway.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is ongoing and has become somewhat of a norm. It has taken second place in the media to the war between Israel and Hamas. One thing I learned from the Ukrainian producers is that despite what the circumstances are around you, you still get up in the morning, start up your tractor and plant a crop. That’s what farmers do.

As we say goodbye to 2023, we look back on bidding farewell to Dr Pieter Taljaard. Five months followed where our amazing staff took up the responsibility to keep Grain SA on track and get the job done, despite the circumstances. I can only say ‘well done’ and thank you all on behalf of the producers for the continued commitment and dedication to our producers.

It is with excitement that we welcome Dr Tobias Doyer into the Grain SA family and we look forward to him joining us on 8 January. I know that his contribution will be of great value to us, and we wish him a long and happy career in service of the grain producers of South Africa.

So as our friends in the winter cropping area wind up the harvest, and our summer crop producers busy themselves with getting the 2024 harvest established, let us sit back for just a minute and reflect on where all our blessings come from. I hope that for all our staff and members alike, there will be a time to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends amid the hustle and bustle.

May this Christmas be one of joy and happiness for you all. May you experience the true meaning of Christmas when we realise anew the great Gift given to humanity on this day. May God bless you and your families and may your 2024 be all you wish for and then some more.

From the Mathews family