‘’The grain and oilseeds sector plays an immense role in the growth of the entire economy of South Africa (SA),’’ said Jerry Maritz, chairperson of Agbiz Grain, in his opening remarks in the discussion on challenges and opportunities facing the grain-handling and storage sector. This discussion took place at the recent Agbiz Grain Symposium.

Read about day one here.

Dr John Purchase, CEO of Agbiz, facilitated a panel discussion consisting of representatives of the respective role-players in the value chain, which included producers, storage operators, animal feed manufacturers, traders and oilseeds processors.

Derek Mathews, chairperson of Grain SA, stated that they support the introduction of new initiatives such as a super grade white maize, provided that the incentive reaches the farm. “If the incentives reach the farm, farmers will produce what their consumers, such as millers, demand. Most of our farmers are astute businessmen and they know that principle very well,” said Mathews.

‘’We are still very fortunate – even if you compare us to developed countries in the world – to have an excellent silo system. Whether it’s an official silo system or an on-farm silo system, we still have an amazing industry as such,” Heiko Köster of the Animal Feed Manufacturers Association added.

“The one thing that has fallen flat and has a huge negative impact, is the logistical side. Some of those things have gone so far beyond repair, that all the new animal feed mills that have been built aren’t next to a railway silo. Farmers are complaining about prices and premiums, and they are right; but the percentage of logistical costs in terms of total animal feed product cost has just escalated. Everybody is paying the price for that.”

During the discussion, Dr Erhard Briedenhann, director of the South African Grain Laboratory (SAGL), stressed that “as far as information is concerned, we in SA – particularly in agriculture– are privileged to have very good information. From an oilseeds sector perspective, the SAGL is doing a crop quality survey on an annual basis per silo, even though it is reported per region. We could perhaps look at it per silo and see if the sector can’t get more mileage from it”.

Arie Wessels of Pioneer Foods advocated his position that the sector needs to do cultivar evaluation through the SAGL. “We will have to evaluate all existing varieties to see which will qualify, for example, as a white maize super grade. We will have to engage with the plant breeders. Millers need to have a total understanding because they are at a crossroads. Do millers choose contract farming? They want to be fair to all producers and are therefore firstly in favour of supporting an industry-wide initiative.”

Maritz concluded that the grain and oilseeds sector will continue to engage the industry to ensure that the general infrastructure of bulk handling is operational and sufficient. However, individual agricultural businesses must engage the value chain.

There are individual opportunities. He encouraged the different value chain partners to engage, identify the potential, and invest in that specific opportunity. – Press release, Agbiz Grain