Opportunity knocks Get moving and stop complaining about the noise

‘It’s tempting to gloat about high food prices and get heated up about stupid politics and ignorant politicians, but this is unproductive. Rather focus on the opportunities that have been created.’
Issue date : 13 June 2008

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It’s been building up, but it’s suddenly become a veritable tsunami. I’m talking about the panic over escalating food prices and I’m ashamed to admit that in a vindictive way, I’m enjoying it.

Maybe it was needed to get some appreciation and admission from the public of their dependence on farmers to keep their bellies full. And maybe it was needed to stop our government from denigrating and demoralising farmers who they’ve been treating like dirt for years. I’ve also experienced another emotional upwelling, which is more rational perhaps, and that is frustration and hopelessness caused by Trevor Manuel suddenly expressing concern that we are importing wheat, rice and meat – something we’ve always done!

Even more frightening is his notion that government support of small-scale farmers will contribute in some way to solving the food price problem. His ignorance of the real world is quite terrifying. T he only way to bring food prices down is to adopt policy options which create an environment where large-scale, efficient, commercial farmers can invest and expand.

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But as tempting as it is to gloat and get heated up about stupid politics and ignorant politicians, I’m trying to focus on the opportunities that this sudden rise in food prices has created and so should you. But what exactly are they? Well, first off, if you’re a sugar cane producer, you’d better make sure that you’re deriving benefit from the shift from sugar into ethanol.

The astronomically high oil price has drawn huge quantities of cane into the production of biofuel and out of sugar. Is the benefit getting back to you or is it all being taken up by the “middlemen”? Time and energy spent making sure you’re getting your fair share of the cake would be time and energy well spent, and the same goes for all food products where prices have shot through the roof. While there’s lots of negativity about biofuel, it’s developed a momentum which will take a long time to reverse, if ever, so opportunities abound.

Have you identified those crops which will ride on the back of biofuel and are you thinking about getting into them? If your present farm isn’t suitable, how about looking elsewhere? Apart from galloping input costs and biofuel, we have our own homegrown driver of rising food prices – the land restitution process.

As necessary as it is for continued stability in South Africa, communal ownership of farms will never deliver the volume of product that’s produced by family- or corporate-owned farms. Certain crops are already on the decline in regions where land claims are prevalent like Limpopo and Mpumalanga and this situation will continue and accelerate. Get the facts and find land where you can produce these products.

Don’t look in South Africa only, there are many opportunities in our neighbouring countries. S o if like me, you are in the unproductive mode of bemoaning the failures we see around us, snap out of it and get into the hunting mode for the opportunities which always follow adversity. – Peter Hughes ([email protected] or call (013) 745 7303). |fw