by Philip Smith

Grain SA Congress

"More with Less" was the theme of this year's event

Food shortages worldwide could lead to political instability
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The theme of this year’s Grain SA Congress was “More with Less”. This refers to the challenge to grain producers in South Africa to produce more (better yields) with fewer inputs (reduction of costs) in order to remain profitable and sustainable.

The chairperson’s report was presented in DVD format and featured Grain SA’s chairperson, Louw Steytler, and the chief executive officer, Jannie de Villiers, talking about the effective delivery of the 2012 strategic objectives. The transfer of the head office from Bothaville to Pretoria had had a positive impact on the delivery of the Grain SA objectives.

Professor Marcos Fava Neves from the São Paulo University in Brazil delivered the first address. He is an expert on international agricultural affairs. Prof. Neves’s international long-term view of agriculture is very positive.

He referred specifically to the consumer needs in China and India, which will require greater food production over the next 20 years. With the rapidly increasing population growth in these two countries and the decrease in arable land there, more food will have to be imported.

The consumption of soybeans, rice, pork and chicken will increase dramatically in these countries, which in turn offers opportunities to countries such as South Africa and those located in South America.

Prof. Neves proposed a model by means of which challenges in agriculture could be managed. It comprises three focus points:

  • Facts – Identify the facts regarding the influence of production aspects and market activities
  • Impact – Understand the impact of the events
  • Actions – Implement strategic actions to reduce risks and optimise production


He further indicated that it is essential to build a good relationship with the government of the day and to use the model above in negotiations. It is of critical importance for Grain SA to provide the government with the facts regarding food security in South Africa, the impact if food security is not maintained, and proposals for joint strategic actions to address the problems.

Food shortages worldwide can lead to political instability. On the other hand, the joint objectives of agriculture and the government that are addressed effectively, lead to success.

Prof. Neves encouraged South Africa to move more rapidly in the field of biofuels. The idea is to transfer the demand for oil to the demand for commodities for biofuel purposes and thus to reduce the dependence on oil and increase the production of sugar, yellow maize, sorghum and soybeans. This is good for additional job opportunities and greater production.

Grain SA adjusted the format of the congress to allow more discussions by experts. The first panel consisted of Prof. Neves along with Bongani Bingwa of Carte Blanche (facilitator), Izaak Breitenbach (Afgri Poultry), Richard van Rensburg (Pick n Pay) and Annabé Pretorius (Plastix 911).

Matters that were discussed included the import tariff on chicken, the local consumption of chicken and particularly of imported chicken, and the possibilities of manufacturing plastic directly from commodities instead of from coal or oil.

The second panel included Messrs Mduduzi Shabane, director-general: department of rural development and land reform, Bongani Bingwa (facilitator), Dr Ferdi Meyer (BFAP), Dr Hendrik Smith (Grain SA Conservation Agriculture) and Ms Stephinah Mudau (Chamber of Mines).

Shabane thanked organised agriculture for its involvement in discussions on land reform over the past 16 months. He explained that the matters currently on the table were closely linked to the objectives of the National Development Plan. He said that 12 million South Africans currently experienced domestic food insecurity.

He referred to the sound partnership with Grain SA and said that they were not farmers, and did not pretend to be farmers either, and for this reason the partnership was greatly appreciated. Grain SA handled the recapitalisation programme of the department and was currently assisting 140 black farmers in the programme. As far as infrastructure was concerned, Shabane said it was a focus point and a very important aspect supporting food security.

Victor Mongoato was elected as the second vice chairperson of Grain SA. He is currently also the chairperson of the farmer development committee and is a member of the management committee. Grain SA is committed to transformation and believes Mongoato will make a major contribution to the grain industry.

Grain SA’s voluntary levy income for the period 1 March 2012 to 28 February 2013 was the best ever. Levies of R 11.48-million had been collected during the congress year and this indicated the strong mandate from members that Grain SA is on the right track.

The delegates to the congress confirmed the focus areas and the direction of Grain SA. Grain SA also thanked all role-players, sponsors and partners who make a difference – not only at congress, but also throughout the year – in organised agriculture and who make a positive contribution to food security.

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