El Niños are difficult to predict, and we are nervously watching the summer season playing out. Our winter grain producers had a tough season – they are battered, but still fighting. South African grain producers are the custodians of a very important responsibility and that is to put an affordable plate of food on the table of every South African, every day.
Like all the responsibilities, we take this one very seriously. This is not an easy feat as producers grapple with pests, diseases, fluctuating input costs, and droughts, while cultivating the grains essential for our nation’s sustenance. In addition to these challenges producers must face exchange rates, international prices, potholes, policies, regulations and politicians once they are done producing.
This underpins the central theme of our Congress 2024, ‘What keeps a producer awake at night?’.
Worrying about external elements – especially those beyond our control such as political dynamics in the upcoming elections – leads to frustration, anxiety, and a sense of helplessness. Grain SA members, however, wield two tools: Individual producers can channel their energy into controllable factors while the collective, proactive effort of Grain SA can influence matters beyond farm boundaries. Our serious intent is that producers lose sleep only contemplating improved production practices, expanding operations, and seizing market opportunities.
I’ve always been a strong believer in organised agriculture. Producers in associations and organisations shape their own destiny at the highest levels and tables in South Africa and the world. As oom Kallie Schoeman reminds us: If you are not at the table, you are on the menu. A lot of things have changed and a lot of things have stayed the same since I last served organised agriculture.
International trade, technology and exchange rates, amongst others, remain perennial challenges. The biggest change that stands out for me is the shift from engaging with government on new legislation and regulations and the concern about the impact on the sector to the execution and implementation of public responsibilities in South Africa.
I get the sense that collective organisations are now more concerned with execution rather than policies. Many producers are saying to me that we need to do something about electricity, roads, inspections, regulatory implementation, data, etc. In the past it was clear that the state would deliver these services, but I sense a shared realisation that we will have to collectively organise ánd deliver the services needed to ensure our sustainability and profitability.
Dr Dirk Strydom came back from holiday inspired by Rassie Erasmus’ book on his experiences in coaching the Springboks – in particular, Rassie’s vision and plans to manage the off-field environments within which the Springboks found themselves. He established the position of director of rugby to manage this environment and stakeholders in such a way that nothing distracted the players’ laser focus on performing at their best on the field. In the same way, Grain SA was established by members to proactively engage and manage the off-field environment of producer-players.
We look forward to engaging with you at Congress to shape and focus Grain SA’s efforts in creating an environment without distraction and interruption within which you can do what you do best – being the most competitive grain producers in the world.