Joint venture at Durban Fresh Produce Market

Something quite significant has happened on the Durban market. I recently contributed to a week’s training session there for prospective salespeople. The significance is that this was a joint venture between the Durban Market Authority and the Durban Market Agents, the first of its kind on markets in South Africa.

The interns are employed by market agents as trainee salespeople for a year. They learn the ropes of the various sections of an agency, and included in this internship is the introductory training I gave them. Once their year is completed, the agency can offer the interns a permanent job. They’ll have to embark on the compulsory Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC) training to become licensed fresh-produce market salespeople.

Burying the hatchet
This cooperation between market authorities and market agents is on most markets as rare as a bunny chow without curry! Sadly, there’s a long history of mistrust between the managers of markets and market agents. Their respective representatives – the Institute of Market Masters of SA (IMMSA) and the Institute of Market Agents of SA (IMASA) – haven’t sat around a table for years. But the reasons behind this troubled relationship aren’t the issue here. I want to grasp at this straw offered by Durban Market.

I’ve long advocated that the two factions bury the hatchet, but I’ve met with little success. Is the Durban initiative cause for cautious optimism? I hope so!

As part of the Durban Market Transformation Programme, management joins the market agents to train and empower young, previously disadvantaged people. In doing so, it addresses a serious issue facing all markets – the lack of young people entering the industry. For longer than most can remember, a job as a market salesperson was acquired through who you knew, not what you knew.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some very competent market agents out there – but it does mean the lines of succession are now being strained to the limit. Both IMASA and the APAC have addressed the need for more professionalism through their IMASA/APAC skills development programme. The Durban initiative should be followed by all other markets.My group of nine students was one of the best I’ve trained in a long time. I believe most of them will become highly credible ambassadors of the fresh-produce markets one day. Let’s not stop here.   |fw