• Login
  • Search Icon

How to operate in challenging times

June 2023


The Grain SA congress took place at NAMPO Park on 8 and 9 March this year. The theme for 2023 was: ‘Adaptability in an environment of high risks and uncertainty’. The aim of this theme was to give producers guidance about how to operate in a constantly changing environment. 

In the chairman’s report, Derek Mathews (chairman) and Grain SA's CEO, Dr Pieter Taljaard, touched on the challenges of 2022, together with the confirmation that although the year was unstable and often unpredictable, it has transformed into a season of grace. Although South African grain producers were still dealing with the impact of the global pandemic and the adverse effects of the ongoing war in Ukraine, high output prices mercifully balanced the scale of the economy. Agriculture was able to show its strength and, together with mining, permeate the economy.

Both Mathews and Dr Taljaard emphasised that during the ‘abnormal’ time, the government and consumers came to a deeper realisation of the value of an agricultural sector that provides food security. Therefore it was in many ways a blessed year.

Mathews also looked at the previous year's highlights which included, among other things, the dedication of the Executive and the staff employed by grain producers in their pursuit of achieving the goals of the organisation. Further highlights included the new soybean seed varieties and technology that offers good prospects as well as the renewed focus on Sclerotinia. The continued development in cultivars and breeding in the maize and wheat industries were discussed and the establishment of a diagnostic clinic and biosecurity hub was welcomed. 

The availability of canola seed was highlighted as a top priority along with the diesel rebate, as its abolition would have significant consequences for grain producers. The export markets for soybeans were presented as another success story and excitement about the alternative location differential for soybeans from the year 2023 was palpable.

In follow-up, Dr Taljaard underlined the strategic focus areas of the organisation: More profitability and sustainability; the sustainability of developing farmers; involvement and input from younger members; a broader member base; core value chain relationships and effective communication. 

The keynote speaker, Sam Rolland, director of sub-Saharan Africa of the Economist Intelligence Corporate Network, examined global trends in food security in his keynote address. Rolland confirmed that the world economy is currently at a crossroads, with volatility and uncertainty on the horizon for the next five to ten years. 

In conclusion, he added that food security will be a major driver of economic risk, that smart farming practices will increase yields and that the international environmental policy will encourage the use of less fertiliser. He urged the organisation to accelerate actions and the use of smart technology and take the lead as the government will not be able to keep up.

Panel discussions during Congress focused on drawing on the know­ledge of experts and co-producers. The panel of experts, led by Dr Taljaard, consisted of Erik de Vries (CEO of Agri Technovation) who discussed new technology for grain production; Gerhard Diedericks (independent insurance expert) who talked about new opportunities in group insurance for grain and oilseed production; and Monique le Roux (CSIR) who touched on loadshedding solutions and the national grid. 

Three of the issues in grain production that were consequently discussed were technology and the optimal use of collected data, risks that increase in the industry precisely because of how the industry is changing as well as the power crisis and what the possibilities are for grain producers to connect alternative power generation to the national network.

The producer panel, led by Corné Louw (Applied Economics and Member Services Lead at Grain SA) consisted of Giovanni Pariziaello (producer from Brazil), André Brink (2022 Grain Producer of the Year) and AC van Wyk (summer grain producer from Bultfontein and the 2017 Grain Producer of the Year). The discussion focused on how these producers managed their businesses through high-risk situations and what lessons they learned from them. With an increase in events that no producer can plan for, the input from the panel was invaluable.

Grain SA thanks all its members, partners, role-players and sponsors who contributed to a successful 2023 Congress. In the coming year we will work together to take organised agriculture back to what is important to our members – the focus on farming. 

Publication: June 2023

Section: Pula/Imvula