A socialist dream in the making?

Once upon a time, the CEO of a certain fresh produce market in South Africa decided that his market would be run differently. He did away with the ‘market agency’.

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Instead, the salespeople selling fresh produce on behalf of the farmers all reported to him. The concept of the market manager (owner) being the sole ‘agency’ has historical precedent. The ‘market master’s agency’ was an option for many years in our markets, and operated alongside privately owned market agencies.

The market master’s agency was found particularly in the smaller markets. At one time, there were quite a few of them in existence; some were the sole agency on that market.

Municipal entities
They never really flourished because they were municipal entities and, as such, were unable to provide the service and support to farmers that a private market agency could. Eventually, with the rigours of fresh produce trading testing their limited resources, they closed down one by one.

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At the time of the market CEO’s new venture, speculation in the industry was that he saw this as an opportunity to ‘sort out’ all those ‘difficult’ market agents he’d had confrontations with over the years.

Now it was payback time. Now salespeople would report to him. He would pay their commission and be in control. He believed, or so the speculation went, that this would create ‘better salespeople’ and, in turn, happier farmers.
Within a year, the entire venture collapsed.

Need for power

My fear is that this option remains alive in the minds of some bureaucrats. A proposal in the Draft Agricultural Produce Marketing Agencies Bill wants the market owners – municipalities – to pay the farmers instead of the market agencies, as is done at present. Is this the first step to taking control of market agents once more?

For some bureaucrats, controlling people and systems is an almost irresistible urge. It gives them more perceived power and enhances their status with the added bonus of controlling our fresh produce markets – a socialist dream come true.