Time for some ‘strategic positioning’

Oh boy, the cat was really let loose among the pigeons at this year’s Nampo Harvest Day with political commentator Max du Preez claiming that the time has come for farmers to re-evaluate deputy minister of agriculture Dr Pieter Mulder’s ‘relevance’ in commercial agriculture.

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Mulder is the leader of very conservative ‘Afrikaner’ political party. This could very easily create the perception that the commercial farming sector as a whole is of the same political persuasion, said Max. That’s but one reason for farmers to start thinking strategically and position themselves accordingly.

I couldn’t agree more! I don’t want to knock Mulder’s political affiliation – that’s no one business – but I salute Max for highlighting organised agriculture’s very, very poor PR.

I sometimes feel like sinking into a deep pit of desperation because of the lack of a calculated and tactical marketing plan from organised agriculture’s leaders. Not to mention the officials. They’re seemingly so engrossed in their own little worlds they can’t see the forest for the trees.

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As Max said, organised agriculture should have organised busses full of ANC Youth League members to visit the Nampo Harvest Day to show them what agriculture is all about. I’d suggest also bussing in housewives from Soweto to show them where and how South Africa’s food is produced.

A wise man once said it’s impossible to change an existing perception, instead one should create a new one. My challenge to all organised agricultural structures in the country is to position yourselves as proactive, inclusive and dynamic players in the economy. To paraphrase political analyst JP Landman: “South Africa’s commercial agriculture sector is ranked as one of the top five in the world, but the sector’s strategic positioning is defective.

I hope and pray all agricultural leaders grasp the importance of this issue. I can’t for the life of me see that the local political players will stop using commercial agriculture a punch-bag as and when they feel like bolstering their own image, or in the war for votes. That’s why you should protect the industry at all costs.

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.