The days of role players in the agricultural sector working in silos are over. This was the stern message of Grain SA chairperson Derek Matthews at the organisation’s annual congress, currently underway.
Speaking in Bothaville in the Free State, Matthews challenged attendees to join hands and to speak and work in unison in order to build a sustainable sector.
More than 200 leading grain experts, farmers, government and other agricultural role players are gathered under the congress theme of “Responsibility in change”. The congress concludes tomorrow.
Matthews said, “It is important that, as a sector, we go and look for the solutions. We need to help government but also government needs to help us. Gone are the days of just working alone. We all need to put the interest of this sector at heart. We are all set to benefit.”
“There is just no way that one sector of the economy is bigger than the other,” emphasised Matthews. “We cannot work in silos. This is the time to work together and to build those relations as farmers.”
The two-day congress is set to focus on aspects such as research, innovation, escalating input costs, infrastructure and new farming technology. A new executive committee will also be elected.
This morning, ageing infrastructure and a reported lack of government support for agriculture came into the spotlight during robust discussions.
Matthews cited infrastructure challenges as a great concern to farmers, especially in the Free State. He explained that it was adding on to the costs of farmers.
“What we are saying to the government is to create a conducive environment. That is where the public-private partnerships need to come from. Farmers are willing to get in on the ground and work to fix the roads but the red tape in government does not help us. We cannot sit back when the costs come back to us,” he said.
Speaking on the Covid-19 cancellation of the Nampo agricultural exhibition last year, Matthews applauded members who stepped up and paid an extra levy in the absence of the annual event. “My heart goes to members who paid the levy… to keep us afloat.”
Farmer concerns high on the agenda
Grain SA chief executive officer Dr Pieter Taljaard promised a brainstorm of ways to assist grain farmers. “We want to listen to our members. We want to know what they want… how we can make life easier for them amid challenges such as infrastructure, the economic outlook and climate change.
“What we need to see is farmers talking to each other,” he said, adding that notions of “us and them” should make way for more partnerships and solutions.
He appealed to members to get to know the contents of the grain master plan as it will help farmers become a unit.
“We are finding more and more that the government realises it cannot do everything by [itself], which leads us as organised agriculture to come to the party and fix the roads. Government is actually asking the private sector to come in and help. That excites me because that is what we need to revive the economy.
“There are opportunities here. They are great opportunities and entrepreneurs should think about the country differently; how they are going to invest differently.”
Grain SA vice chairperson Ramodisa Monaisa also underscored the importance of cooperation with a poignant example of a community coming together to fix the N18 in the North West.
To join the ongoing congress virtually, find the live steam at this link.
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