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The year of standing together to ascend the hill

January 2016


JANNIE DE VILLIERS, uitvoerende hoofbestuurder/CEO

Before writing this editorial, I looked back at what I wrote in the editorial of January 2015 about the issues I thought should be attended to and which were crucial. And did I have it wrong?! It surely keeps me humble regarding all the predictions.

Land reform, biofuel and exports of maize to China never even surfaced. The wheat industry, despite various efforts, still has not been turned around but fortunately is on its way there. The drought, poor economy and chaos in politics put a stopper on all our beautiful dreams.

If I had to write exams, I would not have received a good result, but with student mischief as it is nowadays, they would most likely have let me pass and wished my future employer all the best. However, there was some progress with matters such as the restructuring at Agri SA, the record soybean crop despite the drought and the advances with the grain producers’ development programme.

Grain SA is currently engaged in drawing up various scenarios about how severe the drought can be. When reading this, all of us will be better informed about what to expect in 2016. Maybe it would be the year I have dreamed about, where there might just not be enough white maize in South Africa – with millers having to scurry about to keep their maize meal white.

Maybe it is not quite unrealistic to once again expect a blend of yellow maize meal in 2016. The unpleasant thought that sometimes clouds my thoughts is that government might in this year decide that it can better control the grain market than the free market and then food shedding is a reality.

Our foundation, however, dictates something quite different! We cannot change anything by drowning ourselves in bad scenarios. This is exactly what differentiates us from the blog writers of our country. They who constantly only write about the dark side of life and sing its praises to the extent that one thinks it is the only reality. Maybe it is easy to predict that it is going to be a very difficult year – production wise and also economically. The elections may bring about more and more violence with high food prices spurring it on.

We have a convention at home to, when all of us are very busy, gather around the table to again remind everyone that we are there for one another and that we should not get into each other’s hair. Thus remain focused with the real goal in mind.

2016 is also going to bring changes to the leadership team with the announcement of Louw Steytler (chairperson: Grain SA) that he will be stepping down at Congress 2016. After so many years and years of service to organised agriculture and his fellow producers (not to even mention thousands of kilometers of travelling to meetings) we wish to extend our best wishes to Louw when he “starts” farming again. We who remain will once again have to gather around the table to renew our focus.

I am not going to make any predictions this year, but one thing remains certain and that is that we at Grain SA are gearing ourselves to be a refuge for our members on whom a difficult year is waiting. We will cheer with you when the rains come and will cry with you if there is no crop. May 2016 then be the year of standing together to ascend the hill.

May all South African producers have a prosperous 2016!

Publication: January 2016

Section: Features