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December 2014

Although agriculture in 2014 faces the very same challenges that we have faced over numerous years, it is my candid opinion that Grain SA and the umbrella organisation Agri SA and its affiliates, understand the complexity of the daunting challenges we face. At last, within the confines of organised agriculture, we have a framework that is both constitutionally and economically sound and will serve as a premise of departure for further deliberations regarding land reform, economic growth, job creation and the addressing of the grinding poverty situation that confronts so many of the most vulnerable individuals of our society.

We, as a nation, should regard the necessity of transformation and land reform as an imperative. We would be wise to afford our constitution and food security the very same status. If we are serious about land reform and transformation, it is of cardinal importance that land prices should not be undermined, given the fact that the land itself stands as security for the very production credit that we garner, on the strength of the security offered to financial institutions in the form of land.

It must be agreed that Sections 25 and 36 of our constitution are the cornerstones of food security. The environment afforded to entrepreneurs within the free market system, enables them to produce affordable food and fibre at competitive prices. Food security is a national asset and should be nurtured, for it is a privilege and not a right. In this regard, it would be apt to state that the maize producers of South Africa produced not only enough maize to sustain our own population and export a surplus, but also supplied the people of Zimbabwe with 250 000 tons of maize to stave imminent starvation in that country.

Southern Africa also enjoys the privilege of food security that is brought about by the continued sustainable production of grains across the board. One shudders to think that in certain quarters of society, these facts do not play a prominent role in the greater debate about agriculture. Of course land reform and transformation in the agricultural sector must be addressed within the confines of both constitutional and economic reason. One cannot imagine what the consequences would be if interventionism prevailed. The tragedy about South Africa is that these facts are irresponsibly misconstrued by protagonists that simply do not understand the true economics of agriculture and commodity production in South Africa.

I would like to take the opportunity to remind civil society in general, that South African food security was balanced on a knife’s edge because of the prevailing weather conditions in February 2014 and that an imminent crisis was averted by one weather occasion, by the precipitation that was received over the greater western grain producing areas. Had it not been for this one weather system, most grains produced in the summer rainfall production areas would have doubled in price.

The time has come for South Africans to consider a return to president Nelson Mandela’s inclusive approach, for it will stand us in good stead, not only in agriculture, but across society in general. If we are serious about job creation and poverty alleviation, the beneficiation of agricultural products produced in rural South Africa would receive the necessary support from government, financiers, agri-businesses and primary producers so that the necessary investment in beneficiation could take place. Only then can we claim to address the evils of society – which are joblessness and the grinding poverty.

South African agriculture and our government need to enter into broad cooperation and a holistic, sustainable debate about tariff protection and the levelling of agricultural commodity competition. This is by virtue of the fact that South African producers compete against heavily subsidised producers in the Western world, which distort market prices.

Ek wil die lede van Graan SA, wat die organisasie so getrou ondersteun, bedank vir julle deursettingsvermoë en die ondersteuning van ‘n moderne organisasie wat die uitdagings van die tyd verstaan. Ek wil ons twee visevoorsitters, mnre Andries Theron en Victor Mongoato bedank vir die wyse waarop hulle deurgaans tyd opoffer om die saak van die graanprodusent aan te spreek. Aan die voorsitters van komitees en lede van die hoofbestuur, die uitvoerende hoofbestuurder, mnr Jannie de Villiers en die getroue personeel van Graan SA – my innige dank vir die wyse waarop julle die jaar aangepak en deurgesien het.

Laaste, maar nie die minste nie, ons diepe dank aan die Hemelse Vader sonder wie niks bereik kan word nie.

Geseënde Kersfees en ‘n voorspoedige 2015 aan almal. Ek wens vir julle ‘n suksesvolle plant- en strooptyd toe. Mag julle milde reën ontvang.

Ek is trots daarop om die voorsitter van Graan SA te wees en hiermee dra ek graag my innige dank oor vir die wyse waarop julle my deurentyd ontvang.

Louw Steytler
Voorsitter: Graan SA

Publication: December 2014

Section: Grain SA