Use 2021 to prepare for tougher years to come

It is a theme I remember well from the children’s tales and Bible stories my mother used to read to my sisters and me when we were girls. Aesop’s loafing grasshopper procrastinated until it was too late to gather food for the long, dry winter months and then ended up having to beg for something to eat from the hard-working ant who spent his whole summer diligently gathering food.

Use 2021 to prepare for tougher years to come
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I still think, as I did back then, that the ant took a rather radical approach to tough love when he wouldn’t even help the grasshopper out with a single crumb, but maybe it wasn’t the first time these two found themselves in this situation.

In the Bible story, Joseph gets his lucky break with the Pharaoh when he is able to offer him an interpretation of a dream the Pharaoh had that foretold of the seven years of plenty that Egypt would enjoy, only to be followed by seven years of famine.

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On the advice of Joseph, the Pharaoh instructed that for the seven years of good harvests, a fifth of the crops produced every year had to be stored to provide for the needs of the people during the dry years that would follow. (Imagine having a government
that listens to good advice and takes swift action when necessary!)

This will not be an easy year, none of them ever are, but many factors have fallen into place to suggest that 2021 will be at least an above-average year for farmers. For the first half of the year, the outlook for rainfall in the summer rainfall areas is positive.

For most industries, producer prices are expected to be rather favourable, and there finally seems to be at least some acknowledgement from government that rural safety needs to be made a priority.

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It would be wise then to take to heart the theme of these tales of the virtues of hard work and planning for the future, and use the opportunity afforded by a good year to prepare for the more difficult ones that will come around again only too soon.

Prof Johann Kirsten, the director of the Bureau for Economic Research, says that with higher business confidence and pent-up demand, South Africa will experience some recovery and positive economic growth in 2021.

However, according to Kirsten, it will take the South African economy until 2025 to reach the GDP levels of December 2019.

He advises farmers, given that credit for agricultural purposes will be in short supply and perhaps more expensive, to manage their cash flow carefully and ensure that they build reserves during seasons when they are able to do so.

I know that for many farmers the prospect of building up reserves seems distant and vague.

Large parts of the country are only now emerging from several years of drought, and farmers have a long road to travel before they will even be back to zero.

This year, work hard, if the weather is kind to you, and if you have a good harvest, take a breather and enjoy it. Even if you cannot start building up financial reserves, use this year to build mental resilience and new hope.

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Denene hails from a sugar cane farm in Pongola, KwaZulu-Natal, but after school she relocated to the Cape Winelands to study, for many years, at the University of Stellenbosch. She worked as a journalist for Farmer’s Weekly since 2009 and in 2015 moved to Johannesburg as Deputy editor for the magazine. In 2016 she was appointed editor, and at the end of 2021, she stepped down from her position to pursue her journalism career.