Are you ready for 2016?

For a few days at the end of 2015, South Africa’s working class could allow itself to be blinded by fireworks and twinkling Christmas decorations.

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South Africa’s farmers, however, surrounded by their unplanted lands, may have found it a bit more difficult to forget their dire situation.

With the taking down of the last Christmas lights and the throwing away of empty champagne bottles, we are again forced to face reality.

As we take a breath to steady our resolve, I think most of us wish we had a crystal ball to see what 2016 will throw at us. Will we have enough rain?

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Will Pravin Gordhan’s influence be enough to keep the economy from sliding further down its slippery slope? Will a national minimum wage be signed into law? Many newsrooms are only now returning to full capacity, and the media will, as usual, be delving into these and other questions. Farmer’s Weekly is no exception.

In this issue (8-15 January 2016), we present, as usual, the outlook for all major agricultural commodities, as well as the weather and ongoing drought . What is of interest to me is how the country’s leading farmers plan to tackle the challenges they face in their sectors and regions.

Rising production costs and uncertain political and climatic conditions seem to be at the top of everyone’s list of challenges. As fruit farmer Aat Hoekstra told us, you need to focus on the things you can change.

We discovered that these farmers, who are all at the top of their game, are firstly focusing on increasing their workforce’s productivity through training and education, and are secondly working on saving on wastage. Through precision farming they are making every drop of water, gram of fertiliser and seed count.

If only the Department of Water and Sanitation were as diligent in its management of the country’s water resources as these farmers were. We would never have had to worry about water availability.

Rising electricity prices remain a concern for those farmers reliant on coolers, ventilators, milking machines and the like.

Alternative energy will surely grow in popularity as the technology becomes more affordable. With the big ideals of the #COP21 agreement backed by a promise of big investments in renewable energy, the price of energy will hopefully not even feature on the list of farmers’ concerns in a few years.

Diversification also seems to be a given for most of these farmers, with the need to find new markets a top requirement from government.

This year might very well be a watershed year for us, both politically and economically. With the agricultural sector intertwined in both these spheres, its profitability will come under even more strain.

This year might see our farmers battered and bruised, with some throwing in the towel, but those who remain, be it by grace or skill, will, as they did in 2015, come out stronger than ever.