Letting go of past certainties

With October on the horizon and 2022 entering its last mile, there is a notable level of despondence and frustration among multiple agricultural industries and ordinary citizens. Many of the institutions that contributed to our past successes, economic stability, and growth, are either decaying or are simply not geared to adapt to the fluidity of the post-pandemic economy. The predictability of past days is now a vanished era and the current emotion on show is indicative of the pain we will have to endure to make progress. Without effectively organising with actionable strategies, as the agricultural and the pork industry, we are concurring with a self-restrictive narrative that can only affirm the status quo.

The spread of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) to yet another region in the Free State marks another concession to the behaviour and practices that can develop into the largest threat to the entire livestock industry, including the pork industry. Given the confluence of rural decay, poverty, capacity-constrained veterinarian services, and law enforcement practices also at play, we are now moving into a riskier livestock trading scenario where the individual behaviour of agriculture is the greatest driver of risk.

It is easy to nit-pick past challenges and successes and whip up a blame-based narrative that outsources responsibility to the government, a leading group of farmers, or forums with no capacity or mandate to act on behalf of a value chain. However, spurring up divisive rhetoric and proposing simplistic solutions to the systemic complexity of the challenges at hand will prove to be a fruitless exercise. For the foreseeable future, a scenario of strategic public‒private partnerships on key agricultural services, including disease management and enacting conducive policies, is realistically the only expectation we could hold towards both the national and provincial Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD).

As an industry organisation, we will have to swiftly and expansively morph into an agency that coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the pork value chain at scale. The notion of organised agriculture solely acting as forums that rely on other stakeholders for implementation is a key past certainty that we should let go of. This approach will require the active participation of all value chain players. As we prepare to complete the last stretch of 2022, may we greenlight ourselves to be the masters of our own destiny

The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.