Joburg Market has its say on ripening rooms

Your news feature ‘Joburg Fresh Produce Market slipping up on bananas’ (17 February, pg 20) refers. The Joburg Fresh Produce Market (JFPM) sees itself as an institution established to serve the agricultural industry and the community.

Joburg Market has its say on ripening rooms
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Instances where the operation appears to have not optimally fulfilled this role are taken very seriously and appropriate action is taken.
In the 35 years of the JFPM’s existence, insufficient money was spent on the maintenance of infrastructure; now it is a challenge to catch up.

Current maintenance amounts to R7 million a year and a significant increase (63%) was proposed for the 2012/13 financial year, which was positively received by the company’s board and the shareholder (City of Johannesburg). Further real-term increases in maintenance spending are planned for the medium term.

The legislative framework within which a municipality operates has various prescribed mechanisms to ensure transparency, fairness and value for money. However, it poses some challenges in terms of response times. To improve the response times going forward, a programme has been developed over recent months whereby a preventative maintenance contractor will be appointed.

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This will not only allow the infrastructure to be managed in a way that prevents breakdowns, but also facilitate an immediate response in such cases. It is true that some banana ripening rooms were out of order for too long. However, at the time your article was published, a contractor had been appointed, was on site, and some of the ripening rooms had already been fixed.

The target date for having all rooms fixed was 24 February. There is currently an investigation into whether all responsible management action was taken to mitigate potential loss. If JFPM was found to be negligent, the relative stakeholders will be compensated. Stakeholders have been compensated for losses in the past.

The claims about rats are unfortunate. JFPM has a contract with a reputable pest control company that places and maintains bait stations throughout the market. The performance of this company is monitored by an experienced stall member. When rats are noticed, the circumstances are investigated.

Over the year, only four instances of rats have been reported. In line with the service level agreement, the contractor was on site within two hours. Such cases are also monitored for a period afterwards to confirm that the problem has been successfully addressed.

JFPM, with the support of the City of Johannesburg, re-invests about R20 million per annum in infrastructure, and the City of Johannesburg has agreed, in principle, to a major (R350 million) redevelopment project to bring the Joburg Market facility in line with modern food industry standards.