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Nation in Conversation tackles the future of the grain industry

  • 05 September 2019
  • 1637
  •  press-release

The discussion was facilitated by well-known anchor, Theo Vorster and with him on the panel were Dr Dirk Strydom (Economist at Grain SA), Gert Claasen (Western Cape producer), Richard Krige (Chairman of the National Barley Industry Committee), Cobus Bester (West Cape producer) and Willem Botes (Faculty of Agricultural Science at the University of Stellenbosch).

Concerns trickled through due to most of the Western Cape regions receiving only half of the normal rainfall this seson. "If we had the amount of rain twenty years ago, it would have been a total disaster," Richard Krige added. Cobus Bester believes that although there is promising green crop on the land, the soil moisture is low. “With an average rainfall of 120mm - 200mm to date, we will certainly have to adjust. Rather focus on risk management than chasing returns”.

Richard Krige pointed out that the growing season in the Western Cape has been on average 3 weeks shorter than the average of the previous eighty years over the last 10 years. “It definitely made me look at the type of cultivar I plant. Root development and disease management are crucial to us. Gert Claasen, in turn, expressed his concern about the drought cycles that impoverish producers. "The producer's repayment capacity is under pressure and this means that capital is not spent on progress". Cobus Bester added that producers should still be able to service their direct input costs at the end of the worst year. "You're going to need too many good years if those sums aren't right."

The conversation took a positive turn with Richard Krige pointing out that the South African wheat producer produces the best quality wheat in the world. "It will, however, take time to promote the profitability of the crop". Gert Claasens is positive that the benefits of new cultivars for the wheat and barley producers are still coming. “I really hope that the leap that the maize industry has experienced is on its way. These industrial and climatic pressures furthermore cause one's effectiveness to be so good in the future that when the price / economic conditions turn we can capitalise exponentially out of proportion”.

Dirk Strydom said producers should make sure they learn from each other because all the variables in agriculture can no longer be kept up to date. “Nowadays, you can no longer farm yourself out of debt and should rather look at how to restructure yourself to get through the cycles. Instead, make your plans early before reacting”.

The discussion concluded with decision-making and observational ability identified as critical factors in the grain industry. The producers who can bring good stabilization and diversification into their farming will do better in the long run.

To watch this conversation again or for more information about Nation in Conversation, visit Also download the Nation in Conversation app and experience Nation in Conversation as if you were sitting in the studio.

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