Keep the market free!

I’ve heard rumblings from on high that it should be compulsory for bigger farmers to allocate, say, 20% of their produce to a black-owned market agency.

This is despite the fact that the Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC) and others continually promote transformation in the sector.

The solid business relationship needed between farmer and market agent takes time to develop, but it’s not race-
based. Many white farmers deal quite happily with black salespeople.

Unfortunately, those who express dismay at the lack of transformation within the market agency sector never see this lucrative interaction.

Some white-owned agencies have good BEE ratings, others do not. Among the latter are smaller businesses, many family-owned, which don’t need to qualify for a BEE rating.

The need for networking
A quick count, meanwhile, gave me 16 black-owned concerns out of the 104 agencies registered with the APAC.
If any of these are struggling, I suspect it’s because not enough black agents hit the road to call on farmers and
attend farmers’ days. Such networking is crucial when establishing a new agency. It needs deep pockets to be sustained, but if you don’t tell farmers who you are, how can they support you?

To return to those rumblings –if there’s any truth to them, I would be very worried indeed. After all, we operate in a free market. It’s tough, but its strength lies in the unhindered application of the laws of supply and demand, as well as every farmer’s right to decide what crop to grow and when and how to dispose of it.

No Meddling
What kind of relationship can you have with an agent you’re forced to do business with? What incentive does the agent have to build on the relationship?

We know from experience that meddling with the natural laws of business only leads to trouble – for the consumer as much as anyone else.