Politicians and the markets

We have to face facts: politics plays a disproportionate role in fresh produce markets. I use the word ‘disproportionate’ because what politics contributes in perceived benefits is far outweighed by the very real disasters it brings to markets. (I’m happy to supply examples on request.)

If we have to live with politicians making decisions for our markets then let’s at least try to minimise the damage. One option is to introduce an educational programme for those politicians – national, provincial and municipal – involved in the markets. But how do you convince over-inflated egos that they need educating?

One answer is to offer them a ‘freebie’. This is guaranteed to get them to sit up and take notice. For example, arrange an all-expenses paid tour of South Africa’s markets. I hear sighs of disappointment and see some politicos melting into the background when they hear it is not an overseas tour. No problem. This will leave those who are willing to learn.

In any case, our system of commission markets is unique in the world – let’s make that clear from the start. The overseas trips can come later but developing an understanding of our own markets is fundamental. The tour could start in Cape Town – the country’s largest private market – then move on to Port Elizabeth, East London, Mthatha and so on around the country, ending with Joburg Market. The latter is not only the largest in the country, by far, but ranks amongst the largest markets in the world.

Reagan’s rule
The politicians need to experience the full spread of markets, from the small to the large, the good and the bad. They need to understand the challenges faced by each market and how important markets are to our country. Above all, they need to appreciate that political interference in markets does not work. We’ll have led them to the water, but if they don’t drink, if they still don’t get the message, then perhaps we should bear in mind Ronald Reagan’s advice:

“Politicians are like a baby’s diaper. They should be changed frequently and for much the same reasons.”