Brazil and South Africa: Sailing together through troubled waters

Grain SA’s annual congress included a panel discussion. From the left are grain producers AC van Wyk from Bultfontein and André Brink from Durbanville, Giovanni Parzianello of GMP Agro in Brazil, and Corné Louw, senior economist at Grain SA. (Photograph: Christal-Lize Muller)

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Giovanni Parzianello, a Brazilian agronomist and grain producer, praised South African producers for their daily achievements and believes they face similar challenges as their Brazilian counterparts. Parzianello shared his view during a panel discussion on lessons to learn from fellow producers at Grain SA’s recent annual congress at Nampo Park near Bothaville. AC van Wyk from Bultfontein and André Brink from Groot Phesantekraal in Durbanville, Grain SA’s 2017 and 2022 Producer of the Year respectively, joined Parzianello on the panel. Corné Louw, senior economist at Grain SA, facilitated the discussion.

Parzianello gave an overview of GMP Agro’s farming operations in which they practise double crop production with maize and soya beans established on approximately 47 000ha in the state of Mato Grosso in the central part of Brazil, and in Pará, its neighbouring state to the north. They plant soya beans in September and during harvesting, the planter follows behind the harvester to plant maize. The reason being that the maize needs to be established by January/February since the rainy season is from September to April.

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During the discussion, in which panel members shared their advice on how they try to keep their farms on the right track, Parzianello said that South African grain producers have a golden opportunity to expand their export market despite the current local and international economic challenges that producers face.

He said that South African producers should seize the opportunity to deliver soya bean to eastern countries since countries such as China rely on Brazil for stock and South Africa is much closer. This opportunity includes expansion to countries such as India with its growing population and growing need for food.

Producers face similar challenges

According to Parzianello, both Brazilian and South African producers face similar challenges. One of these challenges is a lack of skilled farmworkers. Although there is no shortage of farmworkers in Brazil, they lack the required skills and the quality of their work is not up to standard.

Parzianello said that GMP Agro addresses this by making their farmworkers part of the business, encouraging them and continuously reminding them of the value they add to the business. Like South African producers, Brazilian producers do not receive any government subsidies, while poor road and railway infrastructure remains a challenge with the transportation of goods.

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 Parzianello explained that GMP Agro’s solution is on-site silos, which enable them to sell directly to clients. This makes the process easier and although it is a big investment, it is worthwhile since it enables them to store crops and sell it at a favourable price. In turn, this lends them an element of control with supply and demand. Parzianello added that they rely heavily on good relationships with suppliers of quality efficient products in order to combat pests and fungi. – Christal-Lize Muller, AgriOrbit

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