Assistant market manager Fresh Ngwazi said the banana ripening and cold storage facilities had been operating since August 2008 but the sales floor site was not yet functioning. “We haven’t had a commission agent operating here so it hasn’t been easy for farmers to supply the market. Farmers are very sensitive and they need to be able to send their fresh produce to someone they trust. The agent is APAC registered so they know their product is protected,” Ngwazi said.
APAC enforces a code of conduct amongst its members and maintains a fidelity fund aimed at giving producers recourse should they be defrauded or should the agent not be able to pay them due to circumstances such as bankruptcy. Ngwazi said the Ugu market was ideally situated to assist previously unserviced farmers. “We have a five-year plan to service the Ugu area and areas like Umtata. It is almost centralised. The purpose is to service those farmers locally who haven’t had the opportunity of being exposed to a fresh produce market before.”
The R30 million Ugu fresh produce market was co-funded by the Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, the Development Bank, Gijima KZN and Eskom with the intention of creating demand for the district’s produce. It is hoped that more than 2 000 families from previously disadvantaged backgrounds will become part of the local supply base. The market is currently packing about 3 500 boxes of bananas a week, not far off capacity of 4000 boxes.