Merry Christmas, from everyone in agriculture!

The year was a battle, but agriculture helped show the way to victory. And today, the sector's leaders are taking a moment to wish you a Merry Christmas with the reminder that everything will be ok in the end...

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There’s a special joy associated with the year-end and we have Christmas to thank for it. We’re surrounded by festive decorations and treats, and if we’re lucky enough during this covid-19 pandemic, also the presence of our loved ones. Christmas is a special time and today, the agricultural sector is taking a moment to wish you a blessed Christmas with the reminder that everything will be ok in the end.

Dawn Noemdoe, editor: audience and engagement of Food For Mzansi.

Dawn Noemdoe, editor: audience and engagement at Food For Mzansi

The year 2020 was an eventful one. Yes, we’re really in the midst of the second wave of a pandemic that has brought a somber mood to this Christmas Day.

Covid-19 is no longer a word that is happening to other people. Its effects are real and quite scary.

Also, many other challenges came to the fore this year: food insecurity, the drought, land reform, you name it. Despite the uncertainty of the future, I would encourage all of us to breathe out and relax. Even just for a day. It’s Christmas, after all.

And I wish to thank the farming fraternity for their continued hard work and ensuring that many of our nation’s challenges and setbacks are tackled with expertise and love. We see you and we honour you, as always.

Christo van der Rheede, the executive director at Agri SA. Photo: Supplied
Christo van der Rheede, the executive director at Agri SA.

Christo van der Rheede, the executive director of Agri SA

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This was a year full of surprises and full of challenges, but we have survived, and this is a blessing in itself.

We are grateful for the all the many blessings that the good Lord had bestowed on agriculture. Yes, in certain parts of South Africa people are suffering, but we need to remain hopeful.

We hope for an even better year next year.

We hope that we are going to have good rains and that we will not have any problems. We also hope that we will come together and work together in a way that will result in the sector being well-managed.

Fhumulani Ratshitanga is the CEO of Fruit SA. Photo: Supplied

Fhumulani Ratshitanga, chief executive of Fruit South Africa

I have mixed feelings for the year. I’m saddened by the effects of the pandemic on many people – businesses closing, people losing their jobs and not able to provide for their families.

There is, however, some good that came out of it. We were forced to go back to the basics and focus on what really matters, more so during the early stages of the covid-19 lockdown. The year’s events also showed how resilient and creative we can be under adversity, so that’s a plus.

It was a year that many of us saw increased efficiency in how we do things. Take virtual meetings and working from home. This brought a reduction in costs and increased productivity. Back to creativity and resilience: industries, including the fruit industry, had to find solutions to various challenges resulting from covid-19 measures in order to continue doing business. I think they were agile in their responses.

For the year ahead, I am hopeful that it will be a better one. I hope that with the discovery of vaccines we will, to a large extent, go back to some normalcy. The biggest wish for me would be to enjoy some unrestricted face to face interactions. However, I hope that we take some of the things that worked this year to the new year.

Kobus Louwrens, co-founder of Food For Mzansi. Photo: Supplied

Kobus Louwrens, co-founder of Food For Mzansi

What can we say about a year like 2020? It was a horrific year where the covid-19 pandemic brought losses to all people without exception – the lives and health of loved ones, jobs and security, the freedom to move and interact as we please.

However, we also gained a few important things from facing this onslaught, and it is worth remembering that on this Christmas Day.

We were reminded of how interconnected we all were, and that no man or woman is an island. How we missed those everyday interactions (ugly or beautiful) on Mzansi’s mean streets that we all thrive on, when we were prevented from having them.

We were reminded that we are all human, with basic human needs, no matter if we live on a hill or sleep under a bridge.

With the hustle and bustle of what we used to call “everyday life” stripped away, we were also reminded of the value of the basics, and that the food and healthcare workers really are the most essential workers we have.

All this to say that this tragic, extremely inconvenient pandemic pulled open a curtain to remind us that our humanity is routed in one another. And that we are all rooted in the fertile soils of our country.

The agricultural sector emerged as one of the economic and social heroes of the year, and it is reassuring that agri leaders are looking forward to a prosperous 2021. It’s been a long time since we’ve needed it this much!

Hamlet Hlomendlini, senior agricultural economist at Absa. Photo: Supplied
Hamlet Hlomendlini, senior agricultural economist at Absa. 

Hamlet Hlomendlini, manager of agribusiness enablement at Absa Group

While its importance to the economy cannot be denied, the agriculture sector has always had a tendency of boasting about and displaying much of its worth in the times of a crisis. This unique characteristic has indeed proven true on many occasions, especially when the country was experiencing an economic depression.

Amid the coronavirus lockdown that brought several economic activities to a near standstill for the better part of 2020, the agricultural sector became a silver lining for South Africa’s economy.

While the sector responded quite positively to its classification as one of the essential sectors during the lockdown period, the classification itself had minimal impact on the sector’s performance. Favourable market and weather conditions are the primary factors that have aided the sector to perform in the way it has in 2020.

As we close the curtain to the year 2020, I am encouraged by the data which indicates that the performance achieved by the sector this year is likely to continue in 2021.

Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape minister of agriculture. Photo: Supplied
Dr Ivan Meyer, the Western Cape minister of agriculture.

Dr Ivan Meyer, Western Cape minister of agriculture

While many South Africans are on holiday, farmers and producers, on the other hand, are now getting ready for harvesting. I would like to wish them all the best for the harvesting season which will run into April next year.

I also want to thank the 251 000 farm workers and 230 agri-processing workers in the Western Cape for their hard work during the harsh covid-19 period.

It was because of them that we were able to put food on the table. I wish them a happy festive season.

AFASA Chairperson, Neo Masithela.
Afasa chairperson, Neo Masithela.

Neo Masithela, chairperson of the African Farmers’ Association (Afasa)

We wish all the farmers, farm workers and agricultural businesses a merry Christmas. Those who are not planting and harvesting now, please take a break because when we come back in the new year, we will continue our lead in GDP contribution and socio-economic development of the country.

In order to do that we need to be well rested. Remember, this nation and the economy of the country relies on us. Take your break and come back in the new year strong and rejuvenated.


Gerhard Schutte, CEO of Red Meat Producers’ Organisation

RPO chief executive Gerhard Schutte.

Things are going well for the red meat industry. We saw panic buying during the beginning stages of the national lockdown, but the demand for our product stood very firm. The producer price on the beef side went up by around 14% and the sheep meat side by 24%. All the fundamentals are in place for this industry to grow. We still have the best quality product in the world, if you ask me.

Going forward, the consumers’ needs remain a priority for the industry. We look forward to meeting their needs through aggressive progress with traceability and animal health. Our industry is 40% transformed and we would like to get the emerging sector into the mainstream of the value chain. Merry Christmas!

Adversity has not stopped Maluleke from reaching for the stars.
Ikageng Maluleke, an agricultural economist with Grain SA. Photo: Supplied

Ikageng Maluleke, Grain SA economist

Throughout this year, I have experienced the resilience of the human race. I am grateful for the high covid-19 recovery rate, yet my heart bleeds for all those we have lost. As this year comes to an end I am inspired by the hope and enthusiasm that lies within producers. Despite difficult times and especially through a pandemic, they kept going strong and provided food for the nation.

The agricultural sector received good rains and a bumper maize crop for the 2019/20 season; this was a much-needed reprieve for many producers who have experienced drought over the past seasons.

The initiative to release state-owned land to the public is a step in the right direction, in terms of inclusive growth. The adoption and use of technology for different functions made us jump into the 4IR (fourth industrial revolution) without even realising it. I am excited about the implementation of the different master plans for the industries, this shows commitment to grow and develop the sector by stakeholders.

On a more personal level, I had the pleasure of attending the Agricultural Leadership Academy by Syngenta this year and I met a diverse group of young people who are equally zealous to make a change in agriculture, this gave me so much hope.

Sitting around the table, we had constructive discussions on issues that affect the industry and came up with solutions of how we can tackle them as young leaders. Lastly, I also had the pleasure of interacting with learners from different backgrounds and I am thoroughly encouraged by their interest in agriculture. One of my goals for 2021 is to do more towards exposing young people to the wonderful world of agriculture.

Koos van Rensburg, VKB’s managing director.
Koos van Rensburg, VKB’s managing director. Photo: Supplied

Koos Janse van Rensburg, managing director of the VKB Group

We all looked forward to the year 2020 with great anticipation – a year that, with its onset, held great potential from an agricultural point of view. Each of us had our own ideals for the new year despite rumours of a strange virus discovered in China.

Unfortunately, the year soon turned out to be the most challenging year many of us have ever experienced and may ever experience in our lives.

It was a year in which everything changed that had always been regarded as normal. New ways of doing things followed and a totally new normal was established.

Throughout this turbulence, for us as Christians there was a strong Anchor in our lives. We had the comfort of “even if I pass through depths, I will not be afraid”. During 2020, VKB was exceptionally blessed with staff who did not become seriously ill, and most of those who became ill have already recovered. We extend our sincere condolences to the next of kin of people who passed away during the year.

As we come to the end of 2020, I would like to wish each of you a blessed Christmas. May Christmas be a truly blessed Christ celebration for you. For those who take a break, enjoy the rest. For those who will be travelling, drive safely.

We are all looking forward to 2021 – a fresh start where we can catch up with all the lost ideals of 2020 and achieve new ideals and heights.

Dr Mogale Sebopetsa,head of the Western Cape department of agriculture. 

Dr Mogale Sebopetsa, head of the Western Cape department of agriculture

I want to thank farmers and farm workers for the great work they have done during this very difficult year. They have served the country very well.

My message to them is to stay safe, continue wearing your masks, social distance and avoid mass gatherings. The only way we can disrupt the spread is when we adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions that are known.

Prof. Elmien du Plessis is a leading expert in land and expropriation law. Photo: Supplied
Prof. Elmien du Plessis is a leading expert in land and expropriation law. 

Elmien Du Plessis, law professor at North West University 

We are nearing the end of an exceptional year, a year where no one could foresee a year ago that we will be where we are now.

It has been a year of incredible loss for most of us – either of loved ones, of lives we once knew, and for some of us of jobs and security. I think we should all, this holiday, be exceptionally kind to ourselves, but also to those around us.

The year has shown us how fragile we are as humans, but also how resilient we can be. And I think we need to honour both our fragility, and our resilience.

Lockdown showed us how interconnected we are, how important human contact and connection is. And I hope we all find ways to cherish that somehow over the holiday season – in a responsible manner, of course.

And all these lessons are true for agriculture as well: a realisation that the people who produce and supply our food are “essential services”. And that agriculture in many instances also realised what an important role they can play in, for instance, food relief. If we can carry on that message of interconnectedness into the future – if we realise that we are only because others are, that we can only truly be at peace when everybody is cared for – we will be all right.

2021 might still be full of challenges, and we might not return to normal too soon. But if we take the lessons of 2020, we will make it. We will even more than just make it.

Dr Lennox Xolile Mtshagi, president of the Black Farmers' Association of South Africa. Photo: BFASA
Dr Lennox Xolile Mtshagi, president of the Black Farmers’ Association of South Africa.

Dr Lennox Mtshagi, president of the Black Farmers’ Association of South Africa

Farm owners need to take good care of their labourers this season.

Do not use or abuse them physically or mentally. They need to see to it that their needs are taken care of, if it were not for the valiant efforts of the farm worker this year, farmers would never have made it.

They need to recognise that they need one another and work together and make an effort to pay them better salaries.

Dr John Purchase, Agbiz CEO
Dr John Purchase, the CEO of Agbiz.

Dr John Purchase, CEO of Agbiz

The covid-19 pandemic has shaped this year like no other micro-organism previously in our lifetime. It has significantly impacted our social, economic, political and natural environments, indeed our very lives as we have had to say farewell to loved ones as well.

While the pandemic continues and remains a major threat through second and third wave outbreaks, there is light in the tunnel and better prospects ahead as at least three vaccines indicate 90% efficacy in controlling the covid-19 disease.

We do pray for the success of these vaccines, as well as for their broad-based distribution and availability, and call on government and our health services to expedite an orderly and comprehensive vaccination programme as soon as possible. And please keep any corruption out of it!

I would like to wish all those involved in the broader agriculture sector of our country a Blessed Christmas with your families and loved ones, and may the New Year of 2021 bring you prosperity, happiness, and joy as we endeavour to normalise our lives again.

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