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Where to now?

March 2016


JANNIE DE VILLIERS, uitvoerende hoofbestuurder/CEO

The other day I came upon a part in the Bible where the nation of Israel tells the Lord: 'We do not know what to do.' My thoughts involuntarily turned to South Africa considering our circumstances. We are surely surrounded by difficult circumstances: Economically, politically, relationship wise and even in nature. Whereto now? This is every day's question to ponder. (I think I would even refer to my pondering as 'suffering'.)

Our country is encountering various crises and standing together is the only way ahead. I am dumbfounded by certain entities' leaders who are seeking confrontation and are finding fault with others while we have not swept in front of our own doors. I also had to do some serious introspection to analyse my concerns about our country. It certainly does not belong to me, but then again, we have a calling to be here and to carry out the task laid upon us. How are we going to produce food sustainably under such difficult circumstances so that we may live and work peacefully as promised?

The drought of 2015 and 2016 has the tendency to divert the focus to the short term issues. Lots of energy and resources are committed to the survival of the here and now. Although the current circumstances must be overcome, there were a number of serious strategic tendencies towards the end of 2015 that require long term attention: The intensity of climate change and the increase in the number of rumours regarding interference in the market by the government. These two tendencies will have to be discussed extensively during the Grain SA Congress of 2016.

There are more and more voices joining the choir that the country is heading for a total disaster. Are we just on an irreversible trajectory or can things still change? Based on our nature as grain producers we remain optimistic. Around Christmas when everyone thought that it was all over and done, the grain producers planted around 700 000 hectares in merely ten days. That certainly takes some doing!

A Grain SA survey on 15 January indicated that the maize plantings would be around 1,3 million hectares. The Crop Estimates Committee's figure on 25 January (and after a number of good rain showers) was 1,99 million hectares.

This can be expressed as 1,26 million maize kernels per minute, which represents a capacity for food security that cannot be denied. We, however, know that the maize is not in the silos yet, but there is a chance now that we might at least harvest something.

Grain SA wishes to draw the outlines of the road for the future during Congress 2016 so that proper planning may be done for what is necessary – not only to survive, but also to be able to forge ahead.

The market has been brutal but fair since 1997, but what lies ahead may be even more unpredictable. We have consistently considered the grain producer as the starting point of food production, and it will be interesting to see where the producers are positioned in the dispensation that is to follow.

One sometimes gets the impression that other parties regard themselves as being the centre of the universe! Time will teach us, but the price of mistakes has been very costly for many people in this country.

Publication: March 2016

Section: Features