Fresh produce sector attracting more youth

Traditionally, the fresh produce sector has been lax in attracting youngsters into the fold. But this is changing, and it’s encouraging to see the developments in recruiting that have taken place in recent years.

The Produce Marketing Association’s career fairs held annually in Pretoria and Stellenbosch have contributed significantly to awareness of career opportunities in agriculture (specifically horticulture), and attract more and more exhibitors every year. The Institute of Market Agents of South Africa, meanwhile, is working on an initiative to attract young people to the market agency business.

At one stage, most of the youngsters seen in market agencies worked there because these operations were family businesses. These young people simply started working for their fathers or uncles after finishing school and that was that. Now you are required by law to qualify as a ‘Fresh Produce Commission Salesperson’ and there are other training opportunities available once you’ve gained your licence.

In other words, youngsters who join a market agency these days have a career path to follow in terms of gaining knowledge and skills. The young people who shine at this stage have a great future. Those who are in the game simply through family connections might one day find themselves ‘squeezed out’ by those better equipped to do the job.

Making fresh produce a desirable occupation
Other industry-related initiatives such as the Agricultural Produce Agents Council’s transformation programme, which includes training and skills development, are currently under way. Training is an important component of the department of agriculture’s Project Rebirth. And there is even talk of a Fresh Produce Marketing Diploma in the not-too-distant future. Collectively, all these programmes and initiatives will help to attract young people to an industry that until now was never considered very ‘sexy’ by youngsters!