Now I’m happy to report that the Pietermaritzburg and Springs markets have made some valuable improvements with funding from Project Rebirth. These will enable them to better serve the producers who supply them. Both markets are struggling with a poor image among producers, and although neither is out of the woods yet, these improvements are a step in the right direction. As I’ve pointed out before, the main challenge faced by most markets is the fact that their staff are municipal employees who, for the most part, have no real commitment to the market and its clients.
Market infrastructure and management are only one part of the equation, though. The other equally important component is the market agents and the services they provide their producers. Are they looking to the future? Are they polishing their crystal balls to see what lies ahead for them? The two markets I’ve mentioned won’t make much headway unless their market agents are committed to upgrading their own service levels to producers and buyers.
Imagine my delight, then, when I was told by the managing director of a medium-sized market agency the other day that he was planning to introduce a service dedicated to emerging farmers. His plan is to have a staff member call on them, liaise with them and guide them with their marketing requirements – all in their own language. He has already identified one of his staff members to fill this role.
I’m aware of only one other agency doing this, so this managing director’s words were like music to my ears. I’ve been advocating this for close on 10 years.
Here to stay
Two down, how many more to go? I appreciate that not every market agency has the budget to institute what I’m saying, but I have no doubt that two could be multiplied 20- or 30-fold. Small-scale farmers are here to stay. They are part of the future and many of them will go on to become commercial farmers. Market agents ignore this fact at their peril.