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Pieter Graaff Gala2019

Pieter Graaff: “Its always darkest before any dawn.”

Pieter Graaff was the winner of the O.S.H. Reinecke Industry Leader Award at the Deciduous Fruit Industry Gala Awards 2019.
Pieter had a powerful message that we share here:

The theme I would like to depart with tonight is about the future and the confidence that we need in this country, and what it means.
What really amazes me in our industry is that I see players here tonight that are really motivated to and want to grow business and create jobs.
And we can create a tremendous amount of jobs. If you look at the state of our economy there is a bit of despair going around. There is low growth, low GDP in the country, but I will take a quote from Alec Hogg that recently wrote:
“It’s always darkest before any dawn. History shows us that in the past half-century the best time to have invested in South Africa was during one of those four confidence troughs when bargains were everywhere. The smart money knows the time to buy is when everyone else is selling because those who reflect realise that this too shall pass.”

And why I say that is because I am involved in a school and I see the tremendous amount of young parents with young kids that are leaving the country. I am saying…there is an opportunity here.
My family has been in this country for close on three hundred years, and I want to leave a legacy, I want to leave confidence.

When we strive to become better than we are, then everything around us becomes better too. So we must make a contribution and try to enrich other people by setting high standards ourselves. There are three things you can do with your life: you can waste it, you can spend it, invest it and help others. The best use of your life is to invest your life in something that will last longer than your life here.

So one wants to say what is a success? And what are the things that we do that make a success?
I would say passion is a very strong word. If you believe in what you are doing because to give a quote by Bernard Shaw: “Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby.”
And that is how I live my life. I really enjoy what I am doing, and I have been blessed to do it in this industry for the last 36 years.

As an industry, we have been through a lot, but really to reflect on history isn’t going to get us anywhere. We have got to look forward and look at the opportunities, and it is the young people, that got to have the courage to come into this industry. There are not enough young people in our industry. The question is how do we get them? It is through education, and we have to distill into them a great interest and passion for our industry. The fruit industry is a great industry. People have to eat, and what better way than through a fresh product.

There are a few tips I can give in business, and amongst others it is: be yourself; I believe in the philosophy of being honest; never lose your temper; see the positives in people; set goals and share them with others; learn to say thank you, and praise and give recognition to your colleagues.

And there are a few fundamentals as well: having good financial skills, always honour your debt, remember cash is king – especially in tough times, and most importantly know your product and research your market, be able to adapt to change and be humble in the process.
So to reflect on our industry…I think the South African fruit industry, since deregulation, had a wonderful journey and is an exciting industry. I go back to Adam Smith author of the Wealth of Nations that wrote in 1776 that humans’ natural tendency toward self-interest – is that our need to fulfill self-interest results in prosperity. And that is true if you are interested in something you are going to give it your all and your best, and other people will prosper from that.

One of my favourite economists is Milton Friedman an American who received the Nobel Prize on consumption analysis, and he believed fundamentally in free trade and free opportunities for people, and through free trade, people will succeed. So one of my fears in our current scenario and I would encourage the government to say if you want to create jobs and stimulate this economy then please reduce regulation.
We are over-regulated. The more you regulate the fewer opportunities there are for people.

My definition of reasonable success is through the financial aspect, being happy in what you are doing, and finding yourself, they all play a role but sharing and leaving a legacy which is my key theme, and in this I would say have a look around you, appreciate that the really successful agribusinesses are family-related and its come through generations.
It’s only true to say in the fruit industry that it is only the second and third generation that really make good money and opportunities, and I am saying this to all the new entrants in the industry. Be patient, you have got to spend time on a fruit farm. Give it your dedication, because it will be successful, and you will have a sustainable business.
Our fruit industry in this country is an unbelievable industry, and we are world-class, but please let us all work together because we cannot be left behind in this global market.

Watch Pieter’s Gala Evening speech on YouTube here:

CAPTION: Here Pieter receives his Industry Leader Award from Nicholas Dicey, Hortgro Chairman.

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