Making markets work for you

For years I’ve been carrying on about the importance of using a fresh-produce commission market properly if you want it to work for you, so let’s take a look at how you can get the most out of one.

Start by visiting one of the bigger markets, because they offer more variety. Then do some serious observation. Talk to salespeople and buyers, and if a farmer or two happens to be on the floor, make sure you speak to them too.

You’ll get an interesting mix of responses, but when you separate the wheat from the chaff, you’ll have the following basics:
Quality reigns supreme. It’s the most important factor in determining price. Make a note of the varying quality standards and then find out their respective prices.

Supply is highly dependent on weather, prices and other factors. There’s not much you can do about the “big picture”, but you can do something about the volume you supply. Work with your market agent and regulate your supply according to the circumstances. Don’t lose any sleep over what other people are doing.

Demand is also something you can’t do much about. Ensure that what you send is what buyers want. Continuity of supply is vital to your success. Look at what successful farmers do and follow suit. Packaging is there to protect, transport, manage and promote your product. And that wonderful Afrikaans saying “Goedkoop is duurkoop” holds true.

Don’t skimp on packaging, but don’t go overboard either, because when done properly, it’s money well invested. This will be reflected in your prices.Presentation attracts the buyer’s eye. Your competition is all around you on the market floor and buyers won’t waste their time on a poorly presented product. What attracts you when you’re out buying something? Buyers on the market are no different.

Communication is vital and you and your market agent must be in constant contact with each other. Things change too quickly on a market floor to rely on occasional calls. Again, observe the successful farmers. They and their market agents are constantly in touch and adjusting their marketing strategies to suit the circumstances. Finally, visiting the market is as important as inspecting your crops in your lands every day. Although you can’t visit the market every day, try be there as often as possible. Apply these basics and the market will work for you – promise!