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Congress 2014: The next generation

April 2014


JANNIE DE VILLIERS, uitvoerende hoofbestuurder/CEO

We arrived at the Grain SA Congress in the rain. From the north, east, south and west. Whether you are a winter or summer grain producer, it does not matter, rain is always welcome! The atmosphere was genial and that brought a lot of energy to the table.

What I also noticed was the gravity with which the issues of the day were addressed. Despite favourable agricultural conditions, the men and women were focused to grapple with the burning issues of the day. The theme: “The next generation” was relevant to all. If you were not part of Generation Y, you had to get into their heads to understand how they operated so that you could lead them to become adults who could produce food for their generation and those who follow them, for theirs. This was invigoratingly fresh.

What impressed me personally was the level of responsibility with which our input suppliers tackled the future. Of course there is money to be made if you faced such challenges, but setting goals like yields having to double by 2030 and inputs having to decrease by 33%, needs to be done. I heard leaders in the input industry equally concerned as we as producers are about a world that is facing a massive food security crisis.

There are days that I dream of a government showing the same urgency in its actions. Talking and planning are not going to fill any plates with food. I was also excited to hear that some plans were already in place which would assist us with this immense task; but except for the forecasts with regard to climate changes, I did not have the same warm feeling about our actions when the weather did not play along. Something we still have to work on.

The presentation about Generation Y (born between 1981 and 2000) was something each of us needed, to better understand this group of people. It was also a pleasure to show the world some of our farm workers who do not just fill an overall, but who make a substantive contribution to food security. Farm workers with diplomas and degrees in agriculture must have been threatening to some in organised labour!

A number of new terminologies were also coined during Congress. Our vice chair, Victor Mongoato, in his welcoming address, referred to the “developing commercial producers”. In the past so many names have been given to this group of producers just to avoid the racial issue, but this name stayed with me. It says something about the process they are in, but also says something about the end-goal towards which they are heading.

The other term I picked up in a discussion with one of our international guests is “Eastern Hemisphere”. This is Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Maybe not such a nice straight line as we are used to in the divide between the North and the South, but certainly meaningful when it refers to grain consumption. It is this Eastern Hemisphere that will be big and will be growing a lot in grain consumption in the next five to ten years.

The last new terminology I learnt is “data science”. I was so under the impression of all the scientific data being loaded onto our producers, which require serious collation and interpretation before it becomes management information with which you as a producer can take decisions. Grain SA will definitely have to expand our capacity in this direction to assist our producers to turn all the data into a digestible format so that decision-making becomes easier.

It was heart-warming and a vote of confidence that the grain producers themselves resolved to properly fund their organisation through an increase in the voluntary levy. It is a brave leadership that turn belief into deeds by leaving to the next generation something of substance and of which we can all be proud. We look forward to a good season and strong growth in the grain market. Thank you to all who have contributed to setting this new direction so that we may embrace the future with confidence.


Publication: April 2014

Section: Editorial