10 March 2022
Business confidence edged up in the first quarter
After remaining unchanged at 43 points in the fourth quarter of 2021, the RMB/BER Business Confidence Index (BCI) increased to 46 in the first quarter of 2022. Although this is just below the neutral-50 mark reached in the second half of last year, the latest reading is nonetheless encouraging in that it equals the BCI’s long-term average which, at 46, is a far cry from the low of 5 recorded at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Read more in the linked media statement on the RMB/BER Business Confidence Index (BCI).
Ukraine - the second iron curtain
Saturday, 5 March, marked exactly 76 years since Winston Churchill made his ‘iron curtain’ speech. On 5 March 1946, visiting Fulton in Missouri as a guest of President Harry Truman, he famously said ‘… from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across Europe.’ At the time, he was dismissed by some as a ‘warmonger,’ but his observation was proven unambiguously correct. The iron curtain era came to an end in November 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, which triggered consequences for the whole world, including South Africa, where it contributed substantially to the transition to democracy. Now, 76 years later almost to the day, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has brought down a new iron curtain across Europe. Airspaces are closed, sanctions enacted, nuclear forces placed on standby, weapons piled into Ukraine, nearly a million refugees already… the second iron curtain is here. JP Landman, an analyst on political-economic trends, shares his views in the linked article.
SONA – was this the state of the nation or our dream for the nation?
Shortly after the president delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA), Agbiz and other business organisations released press statements welcoming the pragmatic and business-friendly tone of the speech. "Since that day, I have picked up a general frustration pervasive in society that can be summarised as follows: These words are nice, but where’s the implementation?," says Agbiz CEO Theo Boshoff. In the linked article, first published in Farmer's Weekly, he gives his key takeaways from the State of the Nation Address. Please click here to peruse.
Portfolio committee on agriculture discusses proposed amendments to Agricultural Produce Agents Act
On 8 March, the portfolio committee for agriculture, land reform and rural development were briefed on the processing of the Agricultural Produce Agents Amendment Bill. There was an amendment Bill before Parliament in 2013, but that Bill was withdrawn and redrafted. An overview of the operational and regulatory environment for agricultural exports and marketing in South Africa was provided by the Department and the National Agricultural Marketing Council. The Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC) also participated in the meeting. The minister was present during the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to get the necessary background before engaging in public hearings. Agbiz head of Legal Intelligence Annelize Crosby reports back in the linked article.
SA agriculture registers an 8% y/y expansion in 2021
After a solid performance of 13,4% y/y in 2020, South Africa's agricultural sector remained on the positive growth path in 2021, registering an 8,3% y/y expansion, according to data released this morning by Statistics South Africa. This is unsurprising as the 2020/21 agricultural season was one of the best in South Africa's agriculture, with near-record harvests in some crops. For instance, the primary grains such as maize and soybeans saw production reaching 16,3 and 1,9 million tonnes, respectively. For maize, this is the second-largest harvest in the history of South Africa and a record soybean harvest. Other field crops also generated large yields in 2020/21 compared with the previous year. Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo discusses the latest data in the linked article.
What does the Russia-Ukraine war mean for consumer food prices?
Observers of global grain markets will be familiar with the “Great Grain Robbery” of 1972. This was not a robbery in the traditional sense. Rather, it was a period when the US sold large volumes of grains to the former Soviet Union at subsidised prices, not realising there would soon be a poor grain harvest across several major grain-producing countries. In addition, there was a rise in demand for grains from the global livestock industry, as well as US farm policies at the time that discouraged the expansion of soya bean production, a key input for the livestock industry (in the place of maize). Among other factors, the realisation of the crop failures across the world and volume of grain the US had shipped to the former Soviet Union, led to a spike in US and global agricultural commodity prices. By this time the Soviets had managed to secure sufficient supplies for their domestic needs and were thus largely insulated from the global grain shortage. Wandile Sihlobo discusses the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war in the linked article, first published in Business Day.
SA agriculture machinery industry saw robust sales in February 2022, but the outlook remains uncertain
The data released by the South African Agricultural Machinery Association show that agricultural machinery sales have remained on a positive path in the first two months of 2022. The tractor sales were up by 20% y/y in February 2022, with 789 units sold. At the same time, the combine harvester sales were up 36% y/y, with 19 units sold. This builds upon the solid momentum of the past two years. Essentially, when farmers have a good year, allied industries benefit from farmers' spending the financial gains or from the produce of the farming businesses. Agricultural machinery is one such industry that benefited from farmers' spending in 2020 and 2021. Wandile Sihlobo discusses the latest data in the linked article.
How to create jobs in agriculture
What does the future hold for jobs in the grain industry? Will workers have the necessary expertise to be employed in the grain and oilseeds sector? Food security is in the national interest and indiscriminate, politically driven policy proposals have the potential to disrupt it. This could have an extremely unfavourable economic impact on South Africa. Without good policy proposals and infrastructure, sustainable production that alleviates poverty and promotes food security is impossible. Read more in the linked article by Agbiz Grain general manager Wessel Lemmer, written for and first published in Landbouweekblad.
The food war: food prices are spiking
Russia’s aggression in Ukraine will have “severe” effects on the world economy, the International Monetary Fund warned Saturday. Grain and fuel prices have surged to historic peaks. This seems like an awkward time to offer hope. Yet hope remains. Our world is much more resilient than it was even a generation ago, especially with regard to food. The food shock of 2022 is not a good-news story. The news is bad. But our “bad” is less bad than ever before. Russia and Ukraine are massive growers of grain, especially wheat. Russia produces about 10 per cent of the planet’s wheat; Ukraine about 4 per cent. Some of that production is consumed at home, but after their domestic use, Russia and Ukraine together provide about one-quarter of all the planet’s wheat exports. Read more in the linked article, first published on The Atlantic.
Loss of Russian fertilisers is a mere inconvenience to South Africa
Dr Pieter Haumann, the CEO of the Fertiliser Association of South Africa says that an end to fertiliser imports from Russia is an inconvenience at most and finding new suppliers is in fact logical, given current shipping rates and Russia’s immense distance from South Africa. The country imports between 70 to 75% of its fertiliser needs, some of that from Russia. In 2020 South Africa imported 11.3% of its fertiliser requirements from Russia, third-most after Saudi Arabia and China, with marginal fertiliser imports from Ukraine and Belarus. Many South African producers have told FreshPlaza that their fertiliser costs have doubled, sometimes just over the past six months - along with close to every other production input on the farm. Read more in the linked article, first published on FreshPlaza.
FAO crop prospects and food situation
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations assesses that globally 44 countries, including 33 in Africa, nine in Asia and two in Latin America and the Caribbean, are in need of external assistance for food. Conditions are projected to worsen significantly in West Africa, due to conflicts, high food prices and reduced harvests, while the situation is alarming in East Africa. Humanitarian needs are foreseen to also increase in Southern Africa in late 2022 due to the impact of adverse weather. Please click here to peruse the full report.
Seasonal climate watch
Weather ex_2
The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently in a La Niña state and the forecasts indicate that it will likely remain in a La Niña state throughout the autumn season. During autumn, the presence of ENSO has less of an impact. Thus, the presence of a La Niña is not expected to have any significant impact on rainfall in the coming season. The multi-model rainfall forecast indicates above-normal rainfall for the north-east of the country and below-normal rainfall for the south-west during mid-autumn (MAM) through to early-winter (MJJ). Temperatures are expected to be quite variable during the coming season, however, the majority of the forecasts indicate mostly above-normal temperatures over the central and north-eastern parts and below-normal temperatures over the south-west. Read more in the Seasonal Climate Watch published by the South African Weather Service.
Corteva Agriscience launches a new insect control solution for maize farmers in South Africa
Corteva Agriscience has officially introduced PowerCore™ technology to South Africa’s maize farmers. The solution is a new high-performing, herbicide-resistant seed trait that effectively helps protect crops from damaging above-ground insects, such as the maize stalk borer and spotted maize stem borer. The company’s leading seed brands, Pannar® and Pioneer® will be offering PowerCore™ technology as part of new, high-yielding genetics within their respective maize portfolios. “South Africa’s agricultural, food and beverage exports hit a record high of $12.4bn (approximately R191.4bn) in 2021, with maize being a significant contributor, reaching its largest export volume since 1994/1995. What’s more, maize is a staple for many across the country and, as such, it is critical that local farmers are given the tools they need to help protect their yields,” says Tony Esmeraldo, Business Director, Corteva Agriscience, speaking at this year’s Grain SA Congress. Read more in the linked media statement.
John Deere Financial now financing construction and mining machinery
John Deere Financial is excited to announce that they have extended their portfolio to include John Deere Construction and Mining equipment. The John Deere Financial objective is to support businesses to benefit from tailor-made asset finance, which saves them money in the process. To deliver the best possible service and solution to our clients, John Deere Financial is built on four key pillars, namely: convenience, commitment, competitiveness and insightfulness. Time is a valuable asset, which is why John Deere Financial works hard to make it as quick and easy as possible to receive financing when you purchase John Deere products. Read more in the linked John Deere Financial media statement.
Get the latest news from the FPEF
Keeping it Fresh, the newsletter of the Fresh Produce Exporters Forum (FPEF) contains all the recent relevant news and developments. Please click here for the latest edition.
Weekly newsletter from CGA
The Citrus Growers' Association of Southern African, shares the latest news in the citrus industry in its weekly update - From the desk of the CEO. Please click here to peruse.
The latest news from the pork industry
Read more about the latest developments and news in the pork industry in the South African Pork Producers' Organisation's (SAPPO) newsletter, SAPPO Weekly Update.
We are very excited to announce that the Agbiz Congress 2022 will take place from 22 to 24 June 2022 at Sun City. Our congress marks the gathering of more than 400 stakeholders in the Southern African agricultural and agri-food industry. As in the past, we are planning to bring together CEOs, senior management and board members, as well as key delegates from government, producer organisations, processors, academia and various other major role players for the Agbiz Congress 2022.

With the continued support from our sponsors, we will bring you a cutting-edge congress with world-class speakers. With the renewed possibility of hosting a face-to-face congress, we can assure you that the Agbiz Congress 2022 will be bigger and better than before and promises to be the event not to be missed.

Delegates can now register for the Agbiz Congress 2022. In-line with international best practices, delegates will be required to be fully vaccinated. If you have already registered, our organisers will be in contact with you to verify your vaccination status. If you haven’t registered yet, please don’t hesitate to sign up for early bird registration at only R4 110 for members and R4 630 for non-members. Please click here for more information.
Agbiz Congress 2022
22-24 June 2022 | Sun City

Africa Agri Tech Conference and Exhibition
29 August 2022-2September 2022 | Menlyn Maine | Pretoria
Why join Agbiz?
  • Agbiz is the only organisation that serves the broader and common over-arching business interests of agribusinesses in South Africa.
  • Agbiz addresses the legislative and policy environment on the many fronts that it impacts on the agribusiness environment.
  • Agbiz facilitates considerable top-level networking opportunities so that South African agribusinesses can play an active and creative role within the local and international organised business environment.
  • Agbiz research provides sector-specific information for informed decision-making.
  • Agbiz newsletter publishes members' press releases and member product announcements.
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