Market prices – up, down & up again

As I write, the markets are awash with produce. Prices have tumbled in many cases. Our mild winter has resulted in extended production periods for some crops, which has meant an oversupply.

In addition, spring has come early, which means even more produce entering the pipeline. Market agents are reporting difficult sales, with the attendant slowing of business. It has happened before and it will happen again. This might be difficult to accept when things seem so bleak, but the pendulum will swing and good times will return. Right now, though, as I walk the floor in different markets, I’m in awe of the huge volumes of produce on offer.

Slowly but surely
“How on earth will they ever sell all this?” I ask myself. And yet, the market agents somehow get it right. Slowly but surely, they move the produce until eventually stock levels become conducive to achieving good prices – assuming, of course, the weather plays along. I won’t be surprised if this current balmy, late winter weather turns into a late cold snap – as it often does.

If it’s severe enough, what will happen to all of those early crops? Will frost and icy weather take its toll? This has occurred before.
It’s a cruel thing to say, but perhaps an icy blast will restore some equilibrium to the crops and help stabilise fresh produce prices again. It’s too early to predict what will happen, though, so we’ll simply have to wait and see.

What we do know is that, when marketing fresh produce, it’s important to ride all of these vagaries of climate and eventually record a good average price for the season.

Work with the market’s highs and lows
The ups and downs of prices are an integral part of the marketing scenario and the sooner farmers understand this and learn to work with it, the better. As I always remind readers of this column, look at what the professional farmers are doing: they understand the commission system and have learnt how to work with it. They know that the bad times will pass and that what really counts is the average. When people understand how the pendulum swings, they grasp the rudiments of fresh produce marketing.