Emphasing sustainable grain production during the process of land reform


Grain SA members, government officials, agricultural role players and other interested parties gathered on 4 and 5 March at NAMPO Park for the annual Grain SA Congress. The theme, “Sustainable grain production during the process of land reform”, promised to highlight important discussion points and encourage lively debate.

The congress agenda included amongst others, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana as keynote speaker, as well as Kip Tom, managing member of Tom Farms LLC, Indiana, USA. The agenda also focussed on the conciliation of the National Development Plan and food security, as well as a research focus for the grain and oil seed industries for sustainable production. The practical implementation of land reform was also discussed in length.

In the audio visual chairman’s report Louw Steytler (chairman: Grain SA) and Jannie de Villiers (CEO: Grain SA) flagged the highlights of the previous year, confirmed the strategic focus of the organisation for the coming year and, due to drought conditions, ensured producers that Grain SA will make an effort to carry producers through this difficult time. The audio visual presentation further gave members a look behind the screens into the organisation’s operations in the different departments. The video is available on the Grain SA website.

Minister Zokwana confirms that the impact of drought changes priorities

In his speech, Minister Zokwana confirmed government’s commitment to the South African grain industry, as well as government’s willingness to ensure sustainable grain production together with organised agriculture. He also ensured producers that new markets will be secured for their products despite the current drought. The minister emphasised the utilisation of time and resources to maintain sustainable production and requested all parties in the value chain to give their input and support to prevent a disaster – not only for farmers but for the whole sector. A standing ovation for the minister was preceded by his call on the Grain Trust to continue their partnership with Grain SA to thereby ensure sustainability during agriculture’s transitional period. He also ensured delegates that the department is very close to a breakthrough to solve the problems of new era commercial farmers who battle to obtain funding.

Sustainable grain production during land reform

During Kip Tom’s presentation he addressed data science with which he is busy to emphasise ways to promote productivity in our sector and in South Africa. Tom was impressed by the noticeable passion of South African producers and wanted to share his knowledge on how data science plays a role in the producer’s business to ensure sustainability, protect the environment, increase productivity and to ensure that everyone do their part to feed an ever growing population – 9,3 billion by 2050 – and with the same natural resources like soil and water that is available today. In his conclusion Tom not only emphasised the gathering of data, but also the analysis thereof to get insight from the data to make corresponding suggestions that will lead to the stability to experiment to fully utilise limited opportunities.

Food security and sustainable production

The first panel discussion, led by Max du Preez (writer, journalist and analyst) had the purpose to consider solutions to bring about sustainable production and food security for South Africa.

The panel consisted of Roelf Meyer (director: In Transformation Initiative), Brigadier General John Gibbs (KwaZulu-Natal milk farmer, scientist and member of the SANDF reserve forces) and Dr Marinda Visser (manager: industry services, Grain SA). In conjunction with the theme, Meyer emphasised their goal to bring different viewpoints closer to each other to ensure that similarities will be discovered on the road ahead to thereby allow for the NDP to work in practice. Gibbs concluded with the suggestion to create a “war room”. This will ensure that all parties involved (including relevant government parties, the private sector and especially the farmers’ community) gather to address problems to bridge the gap through dialogue to move forward on a common basis.

Dr Visser presented an overview of the grain production plan to Congress – a blue print for agriculture’s future over the next five years – and stressed that research and development will only work if it happens in collaboration with government. Grain SA had built relationships over the last three years with key strategic government partners and is part of a formal forum that gathers quarterly to discuss issues and common interests. This also offers Grain SA the opportunity to give input into key commodity documents and policies.

Practical implementation of land reform

The second congress discussion, opened with a presentation by Japie Grobler (chairperson: Agri Sector Unity Forum (ASUF)), covered the practical implementation of land reform. During the presentation of a working document Grobler stressed the importance of successful land reform within the context of the maintenance of the productive capacity of the country, the maintenance of inland food security, the ability to support underprivileged neighbouring countries and to earn valuable foreign valuta through exports.

The panel consisted of Schalk Pienaar (chairperson: Agbiz), Andrew Makenete (director: Manama Hole and Musa Capital) and Ralph Swart (owner of Swart Farming and 2014 New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year).

Pienaar confirmed that land reform (and the funding thereof) will only be successful if its true goal is to ensure sustainable, viable and economic food production. This was supported by Ralph Swart’s confirmation that land ownership is the biggest problem throughout the country, together with sustainable farming.

Andrew Makenete further discussed practical proposals for land reform and pointed out that land reform in South Africa needs a balanced view point. He further emphasised the importance of the agricultural sector and said that everybody was disillusioned by the process – because of the slow pace on the one hand and insecurity on the other – and even though a lot of money has already been spent on this matter, it has not been spent well. Makenete discussed a few proposals and options and came to the conclusion that a new approach to land reform is needed, seeing that research shows that land ceilings are not a good idea in general. Makenete further stressed that international best practices show that family farms operate better than corporate farms and this matter should be advocated.

A first for our industry – Momentum Financial Wellness for Grain SA members and farmworkers

In a first for the agricultural industry, Grain SA launched financial wellness products for its members and their farmworkers in an exciting new strategic partnership with Momentum. This initiative enables Grain SA members to provide for the key needs of their workers with access to financial well-being products from as little as R29 per month. This is just one of the benefits that Grain SA provide to its members as part of their membership at Grain SA.

Why Grain SA took the initiative

One of Grain SA’s strategic focus areas is labour. Grain SA already started in 2013 with various activities in emphasis of good labour practices. At the same time the realisation dawned that access to a simple, easily accessible and affordable solution is problematic. Grain SA used the opportunity to, on behalf of its members, negotiate the best solution possible in order to ensure savings for members, given the economies of scale of the Grain SA member database.

The many benefits of Momentum’s enterprise financial wellness approach will provide Grain SA members the assurance that their employees’ key needs are met. Grain SA is proud to take the lead in the industry with innovative solution and we encourage members to participate in this initiative!

The road ahead

The Congress’s trust in the Grain SA management was confirmed again with the re-election of the chairperson, Louw Steytler, as well as both vice chairpersons, Andries Theron and Victor Mongoato in their respective offices. Grain SA thanked all role-players, sponsors and partners who contributed to a very successful 2015 Congress. We are looking forward to take hands in the coming year to make a difference in organised agriculture and to make a positive and significant contribution to food security in our beautiful country.

Alzena Gomes, Public
Relations Officer, Grain SA

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