2023: SAPPO in review

While we seem to be sailing in calmer waters following a battering from listeria, COVID-19, riots, and floods, the conflict in Ukraine grinds on and geopolitical and environmental risks remain heightened around the world. In South Africa, we are also heading towards an election, with brings with it political noise and concomitant instability. All these factors influence things like rates of exchange and interest, as well as meat and feed prices, all of which have a very material impact on the viability and sustainability of our farms. While we cannot direct any of these macro forces, SAPPO endeavours to support its membership so that they can better face down these challenges. In this regard, farmer levies are collected and invested in initiatives of shared interest which promote industry growth and sustainability. The board is pleased to report on another busy year, with a number of new innovations and good progress in existing projects.

In consumer education, the use of artificial intelligence and fact-based myth-busting campaigns have enhanced the impact of our digital and print campaigns. The combination of our reach and thought-provoking imagery is disrupting the traditional marketing of food. As industry participants, we should all accept the responsibility to continuously live up to the standard of sincere integrity in the product we produce.

The robustness of SAPPO’s ability to respond to African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks was tested in early January after an outbreak at a commercial unit. It once again highlighted how crucial effective relationships with state veterinarians are, together with industry collaboration. Since the outbreak, the World of Pork animal movement application has been increasingly adopted by farmers and abattoirs. SAPPO are increasingly realising the need to collaborate and coordinate actions during outbreaks and technology will greatly assist the industry in this regard.

Moreover, close to 80% of commercial sows are now part of Pork 360. This underscores the significant level of consensus in the industry over the materiality of its focus and importance to the industry’s future sustainability. Over the past few months, the identification of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors that are already embedded in Pork 360 has been ongoing and soon, farmers will be able to generate an ESG report on the World of Pork. SAPPO is engaging financiers to acknowledge these ESG factors when engaging pig farmers on their commitment to sustainability. This is a first in agriculture and an initiative the pig industry can be proud of.

The business development portfolio remains a pillar of great strength and strategic influence in the industry. The volume of participants at farmers’ days is evidence of how highly regarded SAPPO’s business development managers are in the broader agricultural community. Notably, AgriSETA recently accredited the SAPPO Academy as a training provider. The team is also well placed to identify emerging trends and risks that shape the broader value chain. The SAPPO Academy will soon start expanding into new audiences through partnerships in rural and peri-urban areas. This will further enhance SAPPO’s risk management capability in informal market settings.

SAPPO’s data capability and reporting systems have become a highly regarded function across the value chain. The ongoing refinement of digital interventions such as Pork 360 audits, farmer development sessions, and the movement application are creating significant value. Other livestock and grain industry organisations have joined the platform, illustrating how its value could be further extrapolated into the broader agricultural space.

Over the past year, SAPPO’s communication strategy has grown immensely. SAPPO managed to improve and influence the positioning and perception of the pig industry through various inspiring campaigns such as Selekt and PigX1. Overall, the interactions with new audiences have improved SAPPO’s credibility and expanded its platform.

SAPPO has also recently experienced a change in leadership, with Johann Kotzé stepping down to head Agri SA. Dr Peter Evans, a stalwart in the pig industry, has been appointed as his successor. I would like to thank Johann for his visionary leadership in developing SAPPO into a service-orientated organisation that is well capacitated. I also look forward to the role Dr Evans will play in SAPPO’s next chapter.

In conclusion, as chairman of the SAPPO Executive Board, I would like to express my gratitude to the board and broader National Council for their commitment to SAPPO’s strategic and operational success. Serving farmers and enabling sustainability is at the core of SAPPO’s reason for existence and we hope that we can continue to do so as we navigate the year ahead.

Stephen Butt