There’s something about agriculture …

Progress, collaboration, and resilience – these were the key messages about the South African agriculture sector to delegates who attended the 2024 Agbiz Congress at Sun City on 6 and 7 June.

Excellent panel discussions by topic experts and keynote speakers formed the basis of the valuable content that characterised the congress programme. SAPPO was privileged to attend this event, which was centred on the business of agriculture. Here are some of the key highlights:

  • The opening speaker, Dr David Fowkes (Advisor to the Governors at the South African Reserve Bank), gave an overview from an economic standpoint and indicated that South Africa has a negative gross domestic product (GDP) per capita as the population grows faster than the economy. However, the agricultural sector has continued to grow despite facing numerous obstacles – a clear indicator of this sector’s resilience. As one of the speakers noted, “The strength of SA’s agriculture comes from the hardships we’ve been through”.
  • Regarding geopolitics, trade and foreign relations, it was communicated that it pays to be unaligned and open to trade markets and that supply chain management is crucial. It was also emphasised that the role of government is to enable businesses to trade.
  • Another key insight from this year’s Agbiz congress was the undeniable importance of infrastructure in the South African agriculture sector. The panellists underscored the urgent need for a robust rail and harbour network, water infrastructure focused on conservation and demand management, and a reliable energy supply. While funding was acknowledged as the biggest challenge, the positive takeaway was the ongoing progress towards infrastructure improvement.
  • The Banking Association of South Africa (BASA) led a panel discussion on sustainable agricultural finance, highlighting some of the opportunities in this field. Despite operating in a global market with challenges beyond our control, the sector has seen significant success in terms of output and export increases. The adoption of different technologies by producers has also contributed to the sector’s growth, inspiring and motivating the audience to explore these avenues.
  • One of the most important sessions was entitled: “ESG – looking beyond compliance to create value”. The focus on the sustainability component of agriculture and compliance with environmental, societal, and governance responsibilities is becoming increasingly important. The panel discussion was facilitated by Frans van Wyk (director: Agrifusion), who aptly remarked when referring to sustainable production: “I borrow from my grandchildren”. Delegates were taken on a journey through the different sectors’ ways of approaching sustainable production and reminded that producers are the stewards of ESG. Collaboration between stakeholders, partners, producers, government, and input suppliers is paramount for ensuring the continued success of agriculture in South Africa.

It is important to remember that we farm today with tomorrow in mind. We have a sector to be proud of and it is an honour to be part of it. It was a well-organised and insightful congress; congratulations to the Agbiz team.