This week I want to look at how markets and market agents can give the farmer value for money while remaining competitive. To offer top-class service, a market must provide at least four things:
- A level playing field for all users (producers, buyers and market staff);
- A safe, clean, user-friendly trading environment;
- Safe and efficient control of farmers’ money;
- A well-maintained infrastructure.
That’s the short list, and a small minority of our markets get it right, or at least are trying to. Far too many, unfortunately, fail dismally.
Here’s what the critical list of market agents should look like:
- Never stop building on your trust relationships with producers through honesty, service,
- loyalty and compliance with all legal requirements;
- Communicate, communicate, communicate;
- Call on your producers as frequently as time and budget allow;
- Never promise prices, only promise to do your best.
There are market agencies who fulfill these requirements and many more. They are the ones taking the industry forward. Market agents frequently face serious challenges which the casual outsider would never appreciate. But by being professional in their dealings with both producers and buyers, they are able to surmount the most difficult obstacles.
Perform an honest appraisal
In assessing his or her own performance, a market agent should ask just one question: “Am I giving my farmers value for their money?” In other words, are farmers getting value for the commission they pay me? If the honest answer is “No”, that agent needs to go back to the drawing board and take a serious look at what is being done and offered.
If the answer is “Yes”, this is the ideal opportunity to seek innovative ways to add to the value-for-money already offered. It is most certainly not an excuse for complacency.