The challenges ahead

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With all eyes on the road ahead in 2012, I would like to share a few thoughts with you. A positive ending to 2011 for the two main organisations representing market people – the SA Union of Food Markets (SAUFM) and the Institute of Market Agents of SA (IMASA) – has given me high hopes for the months ahead. But the good intentions shown last year need to be converted into positive action this year.


The fresh produce market sector faces numerous challenges and addressing them will take a lot of goodwill and sincerity on the part of all role players. I’ve often written about these challenges and have, at times, been critical of some of the proposals to address them. My main concern has always been political interference. Visit almost any market in the country and you’ll see how political interference has messed things up through lack of funding and commitment.

This has lead to crumbling infrastructure. It has also resulted in appointments being made at senior level that bring in people with a disturbing lack of understanding about markets. And it’s not as simple as wanting new or better-run markets. There are bigger issues as well – such as food security. Admittedly, markets are only one cog in the wheel of food security, but they’re an important cog.

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Supermarkets, wholesalers and retailers are in business to make money. Nothing wrong with that, but at some point it does create a conflict between return on investment and social responsibility. Only well-managed commission markets can ensure the nation has fresh produce at acceptable prices. The main challenge going into 2012 will be to get this message across to the “hot air specialists” sitting in municipal chambers and elsewhere.

A large part of this responsibility will fall on the shoulders of SAUFM and IMASA. Can they set aside petty issues and tackle the big one – educating politicians about the critical value of fresh produce commission markets? And, should they succeed there, will they get the next challenge right – convincing the politicians to invest in markets while not interfering in the markets’ business?

It might be “mission impossible”, but only time will tell. And markets don’t have too much of that available!

Contact Mike Cordes on [email protected]. Please state “Market floor” in the subject line of your email. ?FW