Undermining the market

Driving into the Cape Town or Port Elizabeth markets, you will see rows of people selling apples, oranges, potatoes and other products.

They are only a hundred metres away from the entrances, but I have even seen them blatantly trading at the main entrance to the PE Market. These people started many years ago by buying fruit at the farm-gate, bringing the fruit back to town and parking outside the market entrance and selling ‘cheap’ fruit (such as jumble pack apples). The city councils did nothing to nip this illegal trading in the bud and now it’s too late. Political and other issues have entered the fray. Today, if the council wanted to move these people, it could find itself with a very unpleasant confrontation on its hands.

Rogue traders
In Port Elizabeth, the hawkers leave after selling their wares and return the following morning. In Cape Town, they have set up shacks and are firmly ensconced. Early morning is a traffic nightmare as forklifts (yes, some have forklifts) compete with buyers’ trucks and passing motorists for use of the road. What started as a modest offering of cheap apples now includes a variety almost rivalling the market.

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In both cases, these people, without any regard for the laws of the land, have set up shop using the market as the drawcard to bring in buyers. And they can be quite aggressive in securing business – to the detriment of the market.

Supplying them

Some farmers have the temerity to blame the market for not performing when they, or their neighbours, flout the rules by supplying these people. This effectively disrupts the laws of supply and demand and thereby putting the price discovery process under pressure. And SARS is another loser: it is highly unlikely to see a cent of these transactions.

While market agents battle to achieve decent prices for their clients, some of those very same clients are undermining them by supplying rogue traders. The situation has become untenable in both cities and the farmers will be the losers in the long run.