It’s not too late

Recently, I paid a two-day visit to one of our medium-size markets, and want to try and describe the scene that greets anybody who drives through the main entrance.

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As you approach, you can see a large structure with a sales hall, admin building, platforms galore, cold stores and ripening chambers. But the main entrance offers you a scruffy welcome, complete with faded, barely legible signs. Entering the sales hall, you’re assailed by dirt, noise and a sense of gloom more pervasive than rotting fruit. Broken containers and other debris lie around. Trucks, bakkies and forklifts jostle with each other in the main driveway which runs down one side of the hall. Bad lighting and a structure so dirty that it needs a high power wash from floor to roof add to the gloom. A large patch of dirty liquid from some over-ripe produce creeps across a corner of the market floor – unattended and foul.

The market staff work in cramped cubicles and as for the toilets, well… let’s not go there (and I mean that literally). And stay away from the cold stores and ripening rooms, as well – you’ll be horrified. How the market agents manage to ripen so much as a banana in there is a miracle. I’ve been to this market many times and I’ve come to the conclusion that all who work there have simply shut off their senses to the calamity around them as they soldier on under these miserable circumstances. Here’s a market that was once one of the top five or six in SA, and fulfilled a valuable service to the community as well as farmers. Now it’s an embarrassment.

But I can end on a positive note. The two days I was there saw a series of intense, but highly valuable, meetings between market agents, market management and city councillors to find ways and means to rectify the situation. Facilitated by the Institute of Market Agents’ Project Rebirth team and Potatoes SA, the meetings showed a keen appreciation for the challenges ahead. There was no shortage of enthusiasm, and here’s hoping that converts into real commitment and action in the tough months ahead.

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