The agricultural sector bids Christo van der Rheede well as he retires after eight years at Agri SA.
As agricultural organisation prepared for the retirement of its outgoing CEO,van der Rheede, incoming CEO Johann Kotze has come on board full-time to continue to ensure a smooth leadership transition. The ongoing CEO will remain at the helm of affairs until Agri SA’s upcoming congress on 12 and 13 October 2023, whereafter he would officially hand over to the new CEO.
Agri SA President Jaco Minnaar said Agri SA was very grateful for Christo’s contribution to the organisation and service to farmers. "He has led both in the sector more broadly and at Agri SA in particular with skill and dignity, bringing innovative thinking to the pressing challenges facing the sector. He took the lead at a time of great uncertainty and was immediately able to reassure farmers and rebuild trust. His regular engagements with farmers’ associations and study groups were well received, enabling him to keep his finger on the pulse of the sector and to stay in touch with the issues that are important to farmers. His deft hand at maintaining relationships with the Presidency and the minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, among other stakeholders, has benefited both farmers and agricultural value chain partners," Minnar said.
Van der Rheede's career at Agri SA started in 2015 as Deputy Executive Director, where he was responsible for establishing and expanding various programmes in the organisation and broader agricultural environment, which included transformation, drought, Agri-Phakisa, AgriSEB and agri-development programmes. In 2020 he was appointed Executive Director of Agri SA. Under his leadership, Agri SA evolved from a voluntary organisation to a non-profit company last year.
He was recognised as an accessible industry expert and authoritative commentator on agricultural diseases. Through his continued engagement across media platforms, he has managed to favourably influence the public's perception of the sector and reinforce the value of the sector as a pillar of the nation’s food security, Minnar said.
The outgoing CEO's passion for agriculture and the agricultural value chain was said to have resulted in many interventions which, with hard work and perseverance, have led to positive outcomes. Agri SA said it was in part thankful to his tenacity and capable advocacy, for example, that the restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, which directly and negatively affected the agricultural sector, were reversed and the sector was recognised as an essential industry. Other notable achievements include the opening of the Chinese wool market; the spotlight on malfunctioning fresh produce markets, shortages in vaccines, and biosecurity gaps; as well as Agri SA’s representation in numerous important forums.
His successor, Johan Kotze was said to bring a wealth of business, leadership, and agricultural sector experience. Kotze has himself been a farmer before working in agricultural and corporate banking. His tenure at Agri SA follows six years as the CEO at the South African Pig Producers Organisation (SAPPO). Recognised for his creativity and innovative leadership, Agri SA said it looked forward to continuing to execute its mission with a leader of his calibre at the helm.
"We wish Christo a peaceful and fulfilling retirement, with great appreciation for his dedication. Christo will continue to be involved on a part-time basis in various agricultural projects of role players in the sector," Minnar said.