Revitalising markets

In the past, this column carried numerous appeals for government assistance in saving South Africa’s fresh produce markets.

Quite a few need upgrading urgently, and the cost of this runs to many millions. My pleas, however, seemed to fall on deaf ears, which I found inexplicable. Ignoring these vital food security centres seemed, to my mind, to border on the criminal. Well, times have changed, thank goodness, and it now gives me great pleasure to note that not only is government on board the Project Rebirth train, but so are the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) and the Agricultural Produce Agents’ Council (APAC).

Energetic
Project Rebirth, readers might recall, was born at the 2011 AGM of the Institute of Market Agents of South Africa (Imasa), when a clear mandate was given to a small task team to ‘do something about the markets’. An energetic start was made and levels of success were soon being measured. Then Potatoes SA, which had its own upliftment programme for markets, joined forces with Imasa to make Project Rebirth more effective.

But these are private organisations with limited funds, and the next step was a visit to the NAMC and the department of agriculture. Both were supportive, leading to an enlarged ‘steering committee’. I’m always a little sceptical when government becomes involved in things of this nature and the word ‘committee’ induces a shudder. But in this case, my fears seem unfounded. These people appreciate the seriousness of the situation and are doing all they can to back Project Rebirth in every way possible.

Far-reaching

Running concurrently with Project Rebirth is the Draft Bill for Agricultural Produce Marketing Agencies which, when promulgated in the near future, will have far-reaching consequences for markets and market agents, amongst others. The merits – or otherwise – of this law are not our subject this week. Suffice to say that, if fully implemented, the Act will turn the fresh produce sector on its head. In the interim, Project Rebirth continues to make waves. Let’s hope the politicians will, for once, get it right.

Contact Mike Cordes at [email protected]. Please state ‘Market floor’ in the subject line of your email.