Imasa 2013

If you consider the role it has been playing in the fresh produce sector in recent years and its limited resources – both financial and human – then you can’t but agree that the Institute of Market Agents of South Africa (Imasa) has definitely been ‘punching above its weight’.

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Imasa, which held its 68th AGM in Cape Town recently, was founded in Bloemfontein in 1945. Back then, South Africa had more than 130 markets and about 600 agencies operating in those markets. There was clearly a need for some form of official representation for agents. Somewhere along the way, however, things began to slide backwards and Imasa seemed to recede into a world of its own – not exactly cut off from the fresh produce sector but not as involved as before. The organisation lost its significance and was seen by many as nothing more than an ‘old boys club’.

Fortunately, a new breed of market agent has come to the fore in recent years. Several presidents began to reshape Imasa and give it direction. This was never going to be an easy task, especially as the job is part-time. As current Imasa president Deon van Zyl is fond of saying: “I’m definitely not doing this for the money!” Despite the lack of resources (Imasa has no full-time employees), the organisation has set its sights squarely on the future.

The milestone 2011 AGM saw members voting for Project Rebirth to be set in motion to do “something concrete about fixing the markets”. The project has had a major impact, with real improvements taking place. What is more, it has created an awareness of the importance of South Africa’s fresh produce markets among key role players and helped to bring them together to address the many issues facing markets.

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Shaken off the past
As noted in a previous column, Imasa has handed over Project Rebirth to the department of agriculture – with a collective sigh of relief. This is not because it is getting rid of an unwanted burden but because the cost of making it work would have been prohibitive for the organisation.There can be no doubt that the Imasa of 2013 has shaken off the shackles of the past and taken its rightful place as a leader in the fresh produce markets sector.