Market agent fraud

When a market agent is caught defrauding a farmer, a long and complex legal process is put in motion. Yet often it seems as if nothing is being achieved.

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Ask senior managers at the Agricultural Produce Agents Council for an update on a specific case and they’ll say, “No comment. The matter is still under investigation.”

I understand their position and the frustrations they must go through in guiding a complaint from a farmer through ‘the system’. There have been successes as well as failures over the years, but the most recent ‘success’ is worth noting.

It seems that a market agent – call him X – used to work on the Port Elizabeth Market, until his fraudulent actions caught up with him and he lost his licence. But X was a shrewd character and he owned a large truck, which he used for transporting fresh produce, mainly potatoes, from the farms to the market or to clients.

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Undeterred by his troubles in Port Elizabeth, he moved to Uitenhage, where he provided this transport ‘service’ to one of the market agencies on that market. As I understand, the owner of the Uitenhage agency eventually lost all of his savings, thanks to this man’s fraudulent ways. Apparently, X also conned several other people, causing them severe financial stress.

As I write, X is in jail, at the start of a 10-year sentence. He deserves every year! Let’s hope he takes stock while he’s incarcerated and one day returns to being a decent citizen. As for his victims, I don’t know if they’ll ever see their money again.

Bad apples
His theft aside, X broke the relationship of trust that must exist between farmers and agents – and which is covered in detail in Act 12 of 1992, which regulates market agents. X knew the laws, but his greed was greater.

It’s always sad when one bad apple spoils the whole basket, but we’re dealing with human beings and perfection is not one of our qualities. However, the fact that justice was served in the end should give the other ‘bad apples’ pause for thought.

Michael Cordes is an agricultural journalist, consultant, trainer and former farmer.