About bureaucracy

A bureaucracy is a “system of administration distinguished by its clear hierarchy of authority; rigid division of labour; written and inflexible rules and regulations; and impersonal relationships.

Once instituted, bureaucracies are difficult to dislodge or change.” That’s according to one definition. And what has this to do with the marketing of fresh fruit and vegetables, you might ask. The simple answer is: “Plenty”. In fact, bureaucracy affects fresh produce markets so much it can be placed at the top of the list of reasons why the markets have been dying for the past 50 years or so.

Harsh words – but examples abound of the damage caused because of “the hierarchy of authority; rigid division of labour; written and inflexible rules” and so on. I’ve recorded some examples in this column over the years, but there are many more that will continue to do damage until there’s change. “Once instituted, bureaucracies are difficult to dislodge or change.” We know that only too well, with 13 out of 19 markets caught in a downward spiral of ineptitude.

Can they ever be rescued? Can those bureaucrats who make the decisions affecting the markets ever be dislodged?
the good news

And now for the good news. The ‘Project Rebirth’ initiative launched by the Institute of Market Agents of SA (IMASA), which is tasked with facilitating communication and improved standards on markets, has opened a ‘can of goodwill’ as opposed to the other one with worms in it. Working with different degrees of intensity on no less than six markets, the task team has been blown away by the spirit of co-operation and goodwill brought to the negotiations by market owners, managers, agents, producers and leading sector role players.

As one of the task team members I’ve had the pleasure of seeing ‘bureaucrats’ defy almost every word of the definition in the opening paragraph. This doesn’t mean all is suddenly ‘perfect’ in the world of markets. There’s still a long way to go and a bumpy road lies ahead, but that takes nothing away from the exhilarating change in attitude that’s been unleashed by simply sitting around a table and talking. I have no doubt great things lie ahead for our fresh produce markets.

Contact Mike Cordes at [email protected] Please state ‘Market floor’ in the subject line of your email.