It takes passion

During a recent early morning walk through the massive sales halls of the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market I was yet again struck by the uniqueness of such a market.

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In Johannesburg’s case we’re talking about a huge complex with three sales halls full of fresh produce. Products are moved from floor to loading platform by ‘Kamikazi’ forklift drivers, buyers shuffle between market agents seeking the best deals – and to the inexperienced eye it’s a scene of mayhem.

And this scenario plays itself out on a daily basis with varying degrees of intensity at most of the markets in SA. It’s what makes a fresh produce market different and challenging. These thoughts led me to consider the roles played by the different people on a market floor. As I observed the scene around me, Thomas Edison’s words came to mind. “I never did a day’s work in my life, it was all fun,” he said when asked about his many inventions and the hard work it must have taken to develop them.

Up early
Edison clearly had a passion for what he did and that’s what you need to make it on a market – passion. As they say, once the ‘market bug’ bites, you’ve had it. The whole ‘market thing’ gets under your skin and, as the years go by, it becomes a way of life.
Dedication just isn’t enough. You need to be up very early every morning, long before the rest of the world even begins to stir from their warm beds. Many market people start work at 2am or 3am – summer and winter! That takes passion.

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On the market floor, meanwhile, many challenges await, not least meeting the demands of farmers and buyers – I call this ‘mission impossible’. The one wants the highest price, the other the lowest. Throw in some 40 or so factors that could affect the price at any given time, and agents have a real challenge on their hands with every deal they negotiate.

To add to this, there’s the issue of ‘senescence’ – the process of decay which takes place in all fresh produce. In other words, the agent has to deal with a product that has a limited life and must be sold sooner rather than later. And no one knows that better than the buyer! There’s no doubt about it, market agents need an arsenal of skills – and a passion for what they do.

Contact Mike Cordes at [email protected]. Please state ‘Market floor’ in the subject line of your email.