Price discovery at the markets

Many small-scale and other farmers seem to believe the only way to sell their fruit or vegetables is directly to a supermarket or wholesale buyer.

These options are adequate, but there are others that could be just as lucrative or even more so. One of these is, of course, the fresh produce commission market. But from my interactions with farmers, I think many are unaware of how much they can benefit from attending the ‘university of fresh produce marketing’. There is no better place to learn about transport, market access, grading, packaging, sizing, presentation, continuity, communication and, above all, quality!

The importance of visiting the market

The farmers who become successful are those who visit the market regularly, take note of what is happening, observe what other farmers are doing, learn from their market agent, and then go back to their farms and apply the lessons. Supplying a buyer directly does not allow you to do that. They stipulate their own standards and you have to conform.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with these standards. It is just that dealing with a direct buyer denies you access to a key function of the market – the daily discovery of prices. Ignore the cynics. For a small-scale farmer – or any farmer – this is invaluable because it is the only true barometer for pricing your products. When you negotiate with a direct buyer, guess who determines the price?

Another benefit of price discovery is the opportunity to learn and improve. The best inspectors in the world are the buyers on a market floor. They’re spending their own hard-earned money and are not about to give it away on inferior products.
They will punish the farmer who is not up to standard by not buying his produce.

Providing consistent quality
When visiting the market, the observant farmer will take note of the many top brands selling for premium prices. These brands have learnt to give the market (buyers) what it wants: quality in all aspects and consistency at all times. They know this is what builds their average prices to make a market the most attractive selling option available.