Accolades for ambassadors of grain farming

Accolades for ambassadors of grain farming

Valerie Cilliers, editor, SA Graan/Grain
Published: 6 November 2023

‘The annual Grain SA awards ceremony bears testimony to the heights that can be achieved within the grain industry. It is our opportunity as Grain SA to acknowledge excellence and leadership in agriculture. Tonight, we celebrate the achievements of fellow South Africans who have excelled in their field, from the smallest to the largest – we celebrate you for your unrelenting drive to reach success despite the numerous challenges you face daily. We as Grain SA salute you.’

With these words, Richard Krige (vice-chairperson, Grain SA) set the stage for the 2023 Grain SA awards ceremony which was held at The Maslow Hotel in Pretoria on 20 October. It was a grandiose event, filled with accolades for the men and women who are directly and indirectly involved in ensuring that grain production in South Africa continues to grow.

Christian Giesel, ad interim managing director of Syngenta, the main sponsor of the evening, said in his keynote address that agriculture is more than just food production. ‘Agriculture is about environmental sustainability, economic advancement and food security for a continent that is highly affected by a variety of geopolitical scenarios. With its vast natural resources, Africa provides opportunities for all of us. In agriculture we have learnt to navigate the changing landscape to ensure growth. The remarkable achievements of farmers – big and small – need to be celebrated,’ he added.

Giesel highlighted collaboration, innovation and sustainability as three key aspects of future growth for the sector. ‘As role players in agriculture, we need to unlock our collective potential. By working together, we can strengthen our capacity to innovate and to adopt new technology for the advancement of the sector. This will ensure that South African farmers, who have proven to be resilient, stay competitive and relevant. Collaboration, innovation and sustainability are the seeds that we sow for a bountiful and beautiful harvest,’ he concluded.

Grain Producer of the Year
One of the highlights of the evening was the announcement of the winner in the category Grain SA/Syngenta Grain Producer of the Year. Derek Mathews (chairperson, Grain SA) introduced the category by reminding the audience that this was the 22nd year this award recognised the most effective and efficient grain producers in the country, but also that this award goes far beyond just agriculture. The award also emphasises the importance of producers as role models and their ability to promote profitable and sustainable grain production.

This is no less true for the winner, Pieter de Jager from Albertinia in the Western Cape, and fellow finalist, Andries Els from Bothaville in the Free State. In accepting the award, Pieter expressed his appreciation for his father, Pieter (Snr), and brother, André, who are his partners in this successful family farming enterprise. He attributes part of the success to a strong team of workers and agriculture input advisors who have become friends of the family.

‘It is impossible to farm alone and we are grateful for organisations such as Grain SA for all that they do for farmers in South Africa. Thank you also to all the sponsors who have made these awards possible. You have allowed us to be ambassadors for agriculture in South Africa,’ he added.

The convenor of the expert panel of judges and Grain SA Executive member, Jozeph du Plessis, explained that the finalists in this category were nominated by fellow producers in their region. He highlighted that the goal of these awards is to give recognition to excellence in grain farming as well as to shine a light on role models in agriculture to steer young farmers in the right direction. The awards are also important to build the image of grain farming in South Africa. ‘This is our opportunity to show what it entails to be a grain producer in this country.’ He said that during the farm visits both finalists’ passion for agriculture and precision farming were evident. ‘We are so proud of them.’

One agriculture
Another highlight of the Grain SA awards ceremony is the announcement of the winners in the PGP Farmer Development Programme competition. With the aim of working towards a united and prosperous agricultural sector, this programme is assisting emerging farmers to achieve increased yields, reduce production costs, improve tillage practices and market crops commercially.

Apart from hosting study groups, demonstration trials and farmers days, the initiative includes an annual Farmer of the Year competition to bolster and encourage developing farmers. During the Grain SA awards ceremony the following winners in the different categories were congratulated:

  • William Raphoto: PGP/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year (250+ tons)
  • Philani Khosa: PGP Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year (100 ha, but producing less than 250 tons)
  • Nkosinathi Hadebe: PGP/Land Bank Smallholder Farmer of the Year (10 ha, but producing less than 250 tons)
  • Busisiwe Msibi: PGP/Absa/John Deere Financial Subsistence Farmer of the Year (0 to 10 ha)

In presenting the awards, Dr Langelihle Simela (business development manager, Absa Agri Business), Antois van der Westhuizen (managing director: John Deere Financial Africa and Middle East) and Dineo Maithufi (Land Bank board member) congratulated the winners and thanked PGP for driving the farmer development programme. These sponsors agreed that the role of agriculture in society makes it imperative for financiers, input suppliers, organised agriculture and government to support farmers in their quest for a food secure South Africa.

Pieter de Jager, the Grain SA/Syngenta Grain Producer of the Year for 2023, during his acceptance speech.
Beaming with pride, Pieter’s family joined him on stage. From left is Helmien de Jager, Rita de Jager, André de Jager, Pieter de Jager, Marié de Jager, Derek Mathews (Grain SA), Pieter de Jager (Snr) and Christian Giesel (Syngenta).
Grain Producer of the Year finalist Andries Els and his wife, Marize, with Jozeph du Plessis (left) and on the right Derek  Mathews and Christian Giesel.
The winners and sponsors of the PGP Farmer of the Year awards. In front are Derek Mathews (Grain SA), William Raphoto, Philani Khosa, Nkosinathi Hadebe, Sibongile Hadebe, Boitumelo Raphoto and Dineo Maithufi (Land Bank). At the back are Jeremia Mathebula (Grain SA), Antois van der Westhuizen (John Deere Financial), Dr Langelihle Simela (Absa) and Busisiwe Msibi.
One agriculture – these farmers were celebrated on the evening: Philani Khosa, PGP Potential Commercial Farmer of the  Year; Nkosinathi Hadebe, PGP/Land Bank Smallholder Farmer of the Year; Busisiwe Msibi, PGP/Absa/John Deere Financial Subsistence Farmer of the Year; William Raphoto, PGP/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year  and Pieter de Jager, Grain SA/Syngenta Grain Producer of the Year.
Richard Krige (vice-chairperson, Grain SA) welcomed guests at the Grain SA awards ceremony.
Radio and TV personality, the beautiful Rozanne McKenzie, was the master of ceremonies.
Jannie de Villiers (former CEO of Grain SA), Derek Mathews (chairperson, Grain SA) and Cobus van Coller (producer and chairman of Asset Research’s working group for conservation agriculture).
(Front) Cornelia van Staden, Elbe Hugo (Syngenta) and Hanlie Geldenhuys (Syngenta). (Back) Hendrik van Staden (Syngenta), Christian Giesel (Syngenta), Dr Karen Surridge from the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) and Christo Geldenhuys.
Liza Bohlmann (communications business partner at Bayer Crop Science), Ernie Naidoo and Dr Lukeshni Chetty, who is the general manager of the South African National Seed Organisation (SANSOR).
Thandi and Jeremia Mathebula (vice-chairperson, Grain SA).
Dr Ferdi Meyer, director of the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), and his wife, Marilee, with Nico Vermaak (company secretary, Grain SA) and his wife, Stella.
Sanah Gumede (managing executive: Strategy and Client Value Management at Absa) with her partner Khumbulani and Jaco Beyers (managing director: Africa Middle East, John Deere).
Christian Giesel (ad interim managing director) of Syngenta, the main sponsor of the evening.
Dr Dirk Strydom (head: Marketing, NAMPO and Research Coordination, Grain SA) and his wife, Louise, in the company of André and Carine Labuschagne (Syngenta).
Dr Khulani Machaba (regulatory lead for Corteva Agriscience, Africa Middle East) and his companion, Niki.
Dr Sandile Ngcamphalala (head: Phahama Grain Phakama), Ralph Küsel (Executive member, Grain SA) and Kobus Meintjes  (commercial lead, Bayer SA).
The convenor of the Grain SA/Syngenta Grain Producer of the Year panel of judges, Jozeph du Plessis.