Fresh produce market agents face price-fixing charges

Up to 14 fresh produce market agents and the Institute for Market Agents of South Africa have been charged with price fixing and have been referred to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution.

Fresh produce market agents face price-fixing charges
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This followed a search and seizure operation by the Competition Commission at the agents’ premises in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, in March this year.

The operation followed a complaint from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries that intermediaries between farmers and fresh produce buyers were involved in anti-competitive behaviour, preventing previously disadvantaged market agents from competing successfully within the market.

The Competition Commission seized information indicating that the agents charged farmers fixed commission rates.

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In a statement, the Commission said that its investigation had found the fixed commission fee charged to farmers was 5% to 6% for potatoes and onions, 7,5% for all other fruits and vegetables, and up to 9,5% for all fruits and vegetables from farmers without pallets.

The fresh produce market agents facing prosecution were: Botha Roodt Fresh Produce Agency; Subtropico; Interaction Market Services; Holding; Dapper Market Agents; DW Fresh Produce; Farmers Trust CC; Noordvaal Market Agents; Marco Fresh Produce Agency; Wenpro Market Agents; Prinsloo & Venter Market Agents; Fine Bros; and Delta Market Agents.

Anton Vos, managing director at Subtropico Market Agents, said the company would oppose the charges, explaining that “the commission structure guidelines were established by the Agricultural Produce Agents Act, Act 12 of 1992. This structure cannot exclude any BEE agent from the system.”

Vos said the Competition Commission did not understand the supply and demand system, and that many other agents, such as real estate and livestock agents, all worked within the same structure.

He added: “At Subtropico we negotiate with each of our clients about what type of commission they will pay. We have clients who accept the norm, while others feel they need to get a reduction, particularly our bigger clients who we do regular business with.”

Jeandré Du Preez is the newest addition to the Farmer’s Weekly team. Originating from a Riversdal farming family, she has farming in her blood. After school she furthered her studies at Stellenbosch and has been working as an agricultural journalist for the past two years. She says she feels privileged to write about an industry paramount to the survival of all South Africans and is inspired by the innovative solutions with which the farming community bridges the many challenges they face. She enjoys being able to combine work with travel and appreciates the modesty and friendliness with which South Africa’s farmers share their accomplishments. She enjoys being able to combine work with travel and appreciates the modesty and friendliness with which South Africa’s farmers share their accomplishments. If she is not writing or visiting farms, you’ll find her relaxing with a good mystery novel or exploring her other passions: travelling and cooking.