Saddened & annoyed

Recently, I wrote about one of our fresh produce markets in a way some readers might have found a bit scathing.

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They might even be concerned about the effect on the delicate egos of those in high places and that any current initiatives to make improvements could be adversely affected. I made no personal attacks, but ‘if the shoe fits’, well…

But SA’s fresh produce markets are far more important than a dented ego or two. They’re a vital link in the food distribution chain, and when this role is compromised – even destroyed in some cases – through ineptitude, indifference and plain bad management, then something has to be said – and, hopefully, done, as well.

Farmers have been complaining for more years than I can remember, and many have ‘voted’ by sending their produce to other outlets. Talk to those who’ve stayed, and you’ll learn most have had enough. The message is clear: fix the markets, or we go elsewhere! And as producers leave, so do buyers, seeking alternative procurement options. I find the lack of positive response from most markets to this situation appalling, to say the least.

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As a staunch supporter of the commission sales system, it not only saddens me but annoys me intensely when I see what’s happening to our markets. Yet regular readers will also know that, if I do criticise when necessary, I also praise much more. When I started writing this column more than 10 years ago, I said I would ‘attack’ when necessary but, more importantly, try and be positive. I stand by that statement. It would also be unfair to expect all of those in ‘high places’ within the market structures to share my passion for the fresh produce business.


However, they’ve been placed in positions of leadership – so, passion or not, they have a responsibility to the whole country to ensure that we have good, working markets. If they fail in their duties – as some have clearly done so far – they must expect a reaction. Talking of people in ‘high places’, let me start right at the top. Our current minister of agriculture seems to have thrown her lot in with the Walmarts of the world. She never utters a word of support for markets. I wonder why.

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