Grain SA congress

The first virtual Grain SA congress took place on 3 and 4 March. It included a small face-to-face gathering at the Grain Building in Pretoria. During the congress, CEO of Grain SA, Jannie de Villiers, said the organisation is always setting trends in the grain industry and the virtual congress has set the bar for events in line with regulations during the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Derek Mathews, chairperson of Grain SA, said the purpose of the congress was for farmer members to voice their concerns. With the new virtual platform, they could accommodate even more delegates than in previous years.

The virtual format made it easy for international keynote speaker, Dr Justin Choe, a grain analyst at the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) World Agricultural Outlook Board, to share global grain market information with delegates.

Global maize outlook for the 2020/21 season

According to Dr Choe, global maize production keeps growing and the trade thereof is also accelerating. Approximately 20 years ago, global maize production came in at slightly under 600 million tons. Compared to the worldwide production for the 2020/21 marketing season of one billion tons, production is continuously expanded. Dr Choe said these levels were driven by expansion by acreage, but also yield. Yield has been increased by using modern production methods such as making use of biotechnology, as well as improved agronomy practices.

This increase in production indicates that the global demand for maize is strong, which is good news for South African maize producers because they are net exporters of this commodity. He also shared information about the leading exporters for this marketing season. According to Dr Choe, this year the US is expected to be the leading producer of maize and the biggest exporter. The US is followed by other major maize exporters such as Brazil, Argentina, and the Ukraine. 

As for the biggest importers of maize, China takes the lead. This year, the country is expected to import a record quantity of maize following the rebound of its swine herds following the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak. In China and the world in general, the increased demand for maize is driven by animal feed. As global economies grow, consumers buy more meat, and the affordability of maize makes it an efficient way to produce affordable meat.

For more information, watch Dr Choe’s presentation here:

Credibility of local grain market

For a local perspective of grain markets, Prof Johan Willemse, independent agricultural economist, delivered a keynote address about the credibility of the institutions that make grain market information available in SA. Prof Willemse said there are many debates and accusations about the credibility of the grain market. However, he assured that institutions such as the SA Grain Information Service (SAGIS) are credible and transparent. Dr Choe, the lead economist working on the USDA’s market reports, such as the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE), seconded this notion as they also use this service.

Lise Roberts of Plaas Media, and Prof Johan Willemse, independent agricultural economist and keynote speaker at the congress.

Prof Willemse added that the grain industry is, in fact, one of the most transparent industries in the country, because coming from a controlled market system prior to deregulation in 1994, the industry ensured the proper procedures were in place to guarantee this. He said it has been nearly 27 years that South Africa has operated in a free-market system and there is still space to improve systems.

Prof Willemse emphasised that producers seem to perceive the JSE as being the supervisor of market information, but he reminded them that it is only a trading platform. He said there is still room in the industry for alternative trading platforms.

You can watch Prof Willemse’s presentation in Afrikaans here:

Grain SA election results

A major part of the annual Grain SA congress is the election of new leaders of the organisation. With the new virtual format, delegates could log into a designated online portal where members could vote on important matters and elect this year’s leaders.

Derek Mathews was re-elected as chairperson, while Richard Krige of Caledon was elected as vice-chairperson after the previous vice-chairperson did not make himself available for election this year. Ramodiso Monaisa was elected as second vice-chairperson.

For more access to information shared at the Grain SA congress, watch a Plaas TV episode dedicated to the event here. RSG Landbou also dedicated its programme to the congress. Listen to interviews here. – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit