ECONOMIST AT GRAIN SA
It has been more than two years since lockdown was implemented. In this time producers have not had much interaction with other regions. The news that the 2022 Grain SA congress could be attended physically at NAMPO park on 2 and 3 March, was therefore met with great excitement.
Members, government officials, role-players, academics, partners and stakeholders travelled from far and wide to NAMPO Park near Bothaville to discuss ‘Responsibility in change,’ the theme of this year’s Congress. A live congressional broadcast on YouTube was also made available to interested parties.
New era producers attended on behalf of their regions (regions 28 to 33). They expressed what an honour it was to represent their regions. They found the experience informative, and it was a progressive one for most as they participated more in the proceedings. For these farmers the highlight was being able to interact with other regions and exchange experiences and ideas.
One of Grain SA's main focal points is the sustainability of producers and the discussions and concerns kept returning to one problem, namely input costs, which also determined the course of the agenda for Congress. The programme included two panel discussions to give producers more opportunity for discussion and interaction.
The first panel discussion focused on rising input costs and the need for innovation and new technology to compete internationally. It was led by the CEO, Dr Pieter Taljaard.
The second panel discussion, facilitated by Corné Louw, Applied Economics and Membership Services lead at Grain SA, focused on research, development and innovation of fertilisers.
Farmers enjoyed being part of the proceedings and being part of the decision-making processes. They felt that the theme was in line with their current problem of increasing input costs. Listening to the different speakers and panellists helped them to understand that they are not alone in this problem and that different industry players are working on plans to help mitigate some of the constraints. To see that Grain SA is at the centre of these different conversations, just instilled new confidence in the organisation.
All producers attended separate breakaway sessions, where a variety of matters regarding different commodities – maize, winter cereals, sunflower/sorghum, as well as soybean and groundnut – were discussed. Here are a few highlights from these sessions:
Feedback was given on matters from the previous minutes that were settled.
Calculations regarding the profitability of maize production under current conditions must be thoroughly communicated to producers and the government.
Research on seed and seed quality as well as the grading of seed sizes.
It was recommended that the current methodology of the breeding and technology levy be continued for the next two years. A statutory application for 1,2% of the soybean price is supported.
Chris Sturgess of the JSE provided feedback on a new technical committee set up to examine the proposed model for the location differential.
Soybean export markets currently have greater potential than maize. Because more hectares are planted to export the same amount of soybeans as maize, there are advantages that the infrastructure can handle exports better and that it can, on the other hand, take pressure off maize surplus production.
Sunflower and sorghum
Great concern about Sclerotinia prevails in the sunflower industry, especially in the current wet year. Members were warned to be vigilant and take precautions.
Sunflower plantings are rising and it seems as if a flowering period is ahead.
There is great excitement about sorghum. The value chain study has been completed and it appears that there is a lot of potential and opportunities.
Export markets are being explored and efforts are made to balance import and export prices.
The establishment of an import tariff on peanut butter: The application has been submitted and must be signed by the Minister.
Producers start planting soybeans because it carries less risk and is easier to finance which leads to a decrease in groundnut production. If there are not enough groundnuts, more needs to be imported and local producers are paid less.
A positive aspect is a private company that came on board with new cultivars.
Concerns about the increase in the price of bread were tabled.
Grain SA has allocated funds for benefit programmes and further funding has been obtained from the government.
Members were asked to participate in Grain SA’s input price surveys.
Alternative crops such as lupins are currently receiving attention but work still needs to be done to expand opportunities.
Derek Mathews (chairperson) and vice chairperson Richard Krige were re-elected. They are assisted by the newly elected second chairperson, Jeremiah Mathebula. Producers believe their regional leaders will serve their best interests on different platforms and that they will have a stronger voice going forward. When producers were asked what they would like to do better, they expressed that they wish to open better communication channels amongst themselves.