Staying competitive at the markets

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I paid an early morning visit to the Joburg Market recently. It was an icy Tuesday, and the place was hectic.

Working as a market agent

I wish some producers could see the apparent chaos which is at the heart of the prices they receive!

It’s called competition.

Whenever possible, I stopped to chat to market agents. Among other things, I learnt that the cold snap had affected tomato production, which explained why prices were going through the roof.

A market carries a full range of quality and caters for everyone. But over the years I’ve noticed a definite improvement in the overall standard of produce.

Again, this is competition doing its job; weaker products simply don’t stand up to the exposure and buyers reject them. I saw some excellent quality in a wide selection of vegetables.

With that went top-rate presentation and packaging, a subject close to my heart.

Standing out
Without wishing to favour one brand over another, I could not help noticing the packaging of Rosaly Farms: excellent small/medium cabbages beautifully presented in individual shrink-wrap, with a sticker.

There were eight or 10 to an open-top carton and they looked stunning. I wasn’t surprised they were selling well; if I had been a retailer, I would have snapped them up.

Most market agents, too, put some effort into displaying their products. Space is limited, especially on a busy day, so they cannot always do what they would like. But one or two agents showed signs of ingenuity, and there were some appealing displays.

Here, too, is competition hard at work.

Going one better
I don’t wish to blow my own trumpet, but I was the first farmer to introduce the ‘wrapped cabbage in a carton’ concept back in the early 1970s. It was almost revolutionary back then, and the idea gave me a powerful advantage.

Competition was hard at work then, and it’s working even harder today!

Michael Cordes is an agricultural journalist, consultant, trainer and former farmer.