Grain SA 2013 congress: suave and sophisticated

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – South Africa’s grain producers run a world class business! This is underscored by the very professional and, dare I say, elegant 2013 Grain SA congress.

From the outset Jannie de Villiers and his team made sure the proceedings flowed smoothly, with top speakers and participants in the panel discussions. Nee wat Boet, I detected a continuation of the new energy I told you about after last year’s congress. 

Prof Marcos Fava Neves from the University of Sao Paolo opened local producers’ eyes to the global future of grain production. He’s a dynamic man. The one thing that stuck in my mind after his presentation is that producers worldwide must increase efficiencies to remain in the grain production game.

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Boeta, without sound financial management and cost-effective cultivation practices you and your co-producers just won’t make it in the long run.

The other thing that touched my heart was the petitions from big guns such as Kallie Schoeman from Delmas and former GSA chairperson Neels Ferreira for producers not to retrench their workforce indiscriminately after the sharp hike in labour costs to R105/day.

Neels, the wise man of organised agriculture, pointed out that it will only add to the already alarming rates of poverty, destitution and inequality. And that will impact on us all.

Kallie made the point that it’s actually morally wrong for the grain production industry to add to the socio-economic crisis in the country through large-scale retrenchments.

Yes, it’s clear that GSA has evolved over the years from quite a reactionary organisation to a more sophisticated, pro-active and suave lobby group, in a manner of speaking. Please don’t get me wrong, the tactics of the past were needed at the time to get the grain production industry on the right track – but those days are over.

Today’s challenges call for delicate footwork from the GSA leadership.

The only thing that worries me slightly is that the very same leadership might get so involved in their wheeling and dealing with government and other role players that the common touch gets lost in the process. Watch out for that, chairperson Louw, vice-chairperson Andries and vice-chairperson Victor! And you too, CEO Jannie.

But hats off to the entire Grain SA team. Well done!

Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.