The need for economies of scale is just one reason. ‘Strength in numbers’ also always helps when sitting around the negotiating table. I can recall when packhouses serving a group of farmers under one brand were viewed with suspicion by some. There were those who decried the loss of their own personal ‘brand’, not realising that in real branding terms they weren’t achieving much anyway.
By joining a central packhouse, branding could be introduced that would benefit all concerned far more than individual brands fighting it out for the marketing crumbs. I’m not criticising farmers who take pride in their product. That’s how it should be, but when it comes to marketing, you’re far more likely to achieve better results when volumes, continuity and quality can be linked to a specific brand.
Another form of combining assets in agriculture is the ‘umbrella organisation’ that serves a number of different sectors in matters of common interest. Good examples are Subtrops, which represents avocado, mango, litchi and macadamia growers, or Hortgro, which covers the deciduous fruit sector. Both organisations have become powerful forces operating at international as well as local level. They command respect and they achieve things for their members which, individually, would have been virtually impossible.
Always slow to follow, the fresh produce markets sector has made virtually no progress towards joint participation between market owners and market agents in more than 50 years. However, things are changing. The cumbersome, painfully slow process of changing minds and attitudes is beginning to take hold. Senior executives from both sides are meeting and attendance at conferences and other events is growing.
Meanwhile, joint participation on a modest but significant scale will soon be witnessed in Pretoria, where one of the items up for discussion is the launch of an ‘umbrella organisation’ to represent key stake-holders on fresh produce markets. In fact, by the time you read this, the birth of Markets SA could no longer be a dream, but a reality. It certainly makes sense.
Contact Mike Cordes at [email protected]. Please state ‘Market floor’ in the subject line of your email.