Doing their job?

Some market agents believe BEE agencies operating on markets are solely responsible for assisting and promoting small-scale farmers.

However, the reality is somewhat different. Yes, there are BEE market agents – far too few, unfortunately – doing a good job for emerging farmers, but most are struggling to survive and barely have time to promote others. Like any market agent they’re only too grateful to have any farmer, large or small, supporting them. 

Some enjoy good support from the more successful emerging farmers, but many of the latter also choose other market agents to sell their products. And this is where the reality of being a market agent kicks in. The commission system requires a market agent to sell fresh produce on behalf of a farmer. The only way this can be done is through developing a sound business relationship.

Mutual trust
This essential key to successful marketing is a fundamental requirement of successful selling on a commission market. And it works remarkably well when both farmer and market agent strive to make it happen. Once such a relationship is established it takes a serious ‘mishap’ to break it and let another market agent through the door. Mutual trust knows no colour, and hasn’t heard of a BEE Scorecard. It’s the ‘oil’ of the fresh produce commission system engine.

Of course BEE market agents should be promoting their emerging farmer clients, but they should also understand it’s not a right, but a privilege. If small-scale farmers choose another market agency that’s their business. There are many examples of very good marketing relationships between emerging farmers and their market agents. One agency even has a full-time field officer, who spends his days calling on small-scale farmers to help them and, naturally, encourage them to continuing supporting the agency.

The market agency business is a tough one. Competition is fierce and success requires dedication and commitment. Perhaps those BEE market agents who claim they have been ‘chosen’ to assist their ‘farming brothers’ should stop whining and start doing some positive relationship building. That’s how the commission system works!

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