Fresh produce market forecast

At this time of the year, I usually make my annual forecast of the fresh produce markets. I peer deep into my crystal ball and, with uncanny accuracy, predict that prices for fruit and veg will go up… and then come down.

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This year, my sense of modesty precludes me from repeating my refrain. People might begin to wonder about my secret sources, so I’ll leave the natural laws of supply and demand to get on with it.

Making predictions is one thing, but with the prices of many products having gone ballistic, it has become another matter entirely. Who would have imagined that the lowly cabbage would fetch a price exceeding R100/ bag or R12 a head on the market?

Going up and up
These prices are symptomatic of our climatic situation and can be seen in any number of other crops reaching the market floor. Of course, the spikes seldom last for long, but usually, when prices settle back to more normal levels, these are a bit higher than in the past. In other words, we can expect baseline prices on fruit and vegetables to move up a good few notches in the months ahead.

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The question I frequently ask under such circumstance is: “Will the retailers also adjust their prices downwards when market prices tumble?”

I’m afraid there are still too many retailers who suffer from ‘price amnesia’. That is, when a market price goes up, they respond accordingly in their shops, then forget to lower that price when the market drops again.

Perhaps 2016 will find a cure for this affliction that bedevils the retail trade and causes unnecessary suffering for consumers.

More markets in the region?
Each year brings with it a small flurry of activity as well-intentioned people seek to open new markets. Although I have no update on its status at present, I know that Empangeni welcomed its market in the latter part of 2015, and there are initiatives in other regions in the pipeline. It would be premature, however, to reveal anything at this stage.

Much interest has been shown in fresh produce markets in certain neighbouring countries, and several markets are now operating. I have no doubt that 2016 will see this trend continue as talk is converted into action.