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2020’s highs and lows featured at Congress

June 2021


Grain SA’s annual congress took place virtually on 3 and 4 March and explored the theme ‘Credibility of grain markets’. Delegates from all around the country were able to participate and even vote online.

A key purpose of Congress is to review the activities of the organisation in the past year and appoint new leadership. Here are some of the reviewed activities:

The past year
Although it was a year of good harvests, it was one of major uncertainty. We learned the importance of having an organisation that will champion the farmers. This was evident when Grain SA jumped to the task of organising permits for farmers to continue harvesting and delivering their crop to silos when lockdown was implemented.

Grain SA was included in the minister’s COVID advisory team and could keep its finger on the pulse all the time. The organisation was determined to continue to attend to problems and try to be proactive for farmer issues towards effective, sustainable and profitable farming. How can we improve productivity? How can we improve profitability? These are goals that Grain SA consistently pursues.

Chairman Derek Mathews feels strongly that we have to pursue profitability for farming operations. We cannot encourage a farmer to enter the industry when we are effectively encouraging him into a debt trap.

Market mechanisms and transparency in the marketplace were under the microscope this past year. The location differential has been a long term headache and Grain SA is now actively seeking a new system together with the University of the Free State.

Financial management is important in an organisation like Grain SA. CEO, Jannie de Villiers, was pleased to report that Grain SA has once again been given a clean audit reaffirming that it is a responsible custodian of the funds it manages.

The annual review reassured members that the Grain SA team is highly skilled and able to steer through the sometimes challenging and muddy waters of the broader agricultural economy. Our business is safe in this team’s hands while we get on with the business of farming at grass roots!

Although the virtual congress was not as special as meeting face to face, shaking hands and having a chat, it was nonetheless an amazing achievement on the part of the Grain SA team to coordinate this event that virtually enabled business as usual.

Leadership appointments
Chairman Derek Mathews
, a farmer in the Lichtenburg district, was re-elected unopposed for the new term of office. He restated his belief that ‘Farmers have to have a voice and they have to have a voice that is effective and that can be heard!’ He also said, ‘We have come to a time where what is good for the commercial farmer is also good for the smallholder farmer. We must find ways to provide solutions to all farmers – big or small.’

Vice-chairman Richard Kriel who farms near Caledon and is involved on many organised agriculture trusts, was also re-elected for a new term of office.

Vice-chairman Ramodisa Monaisa, a farmer from Radithuso, North West, was re-elected for the new term. He is the chairperson of the Farmer Development Working Group and Phahama Grain Phakama.

Keynote speakers
The guest experts addressed important issues that influence market information and price drivers.

Guest speaker, Dr Justin Choe, is a research economist and an expert on trade policy. Dr Choe gave an overview of world agricultural production and how the USDA aims to gather information to inform decisions and provide reliable, objective and unbiased information to the agriculture sector.

Professor Johan Willemse, agricultural economist, discussed the credibility of the grain markets. His many years of experience in the local grain economy including monitoring the shift from the single channel marketing systems to the free market we know today, make his insights worth listening to. He says the most important thing is farmers must have accurate market information at all times. The other critical element is there has to be ‘rules of the game’ monitoring the conduct of role-players in place. We also need to guard against state interference which may attempt to control the markets. Willemse highlighted the invaluable role of the SAGIS and the Crop Estimates Committee in providing unbiased, reliable information on the crops. 


  • Jannie de Villiers informed Congress that a new non-profit company, Phahama Grain Phakama, has been formed for the Farmer Development Programme. The intention is to ensure that the organisation is BEE compliant and to create channels for funding that will benefit donors in the future.
  • This was CEO Jannie de Villiers’s last Congress as he retires at the end of August 2021. He reflected on his ten years of service to Grain SA saying despite many challenges inside and outside the organisation, he feels he has been able to live out a call ‘to serve’ and ‘to encourage’ others. Derek thanked Jannie for his commitment to grain farmers and for building a team that serves Grain SA well. 

Publication: June 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula