Understand your market

How many farmers load up their truck with fresh produce, dispatch it to the market, and say to themselves: “I’ll leave it up to the agent now. It’s his job to get me the best prices.”

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Far too many, I suspect. This might be the quick and easy way, but it’s hardly professional. Marketing fresh produce optimally requires up-to-date information, and hence regular communication between producer and market agent. It also requires a keen appreciation of what a market can handle in terms of quantities, products and quality.

If Joburg Market is your benchmark for measuring other fresh produce markets, then perhaps you should do a bit of rethinking. Yes, Joburg Market is the price barometer of the country, but the sales dynamics here are certainly not the same as those of other markets. Joburg Market is so large that it has a momentum of its own. It can move huge quantities of produce because it has a considerable buyer base that reaches throughout South Africa and far beyond our borders.
large or small?

Even Joburg’s closest rivals, Tshwane and Cape Town, cannot compete at that level – although both do a good job.  Generally, the smaller the market, the more challenging the dynamics of moving fresh produce. A wise producer takes his market agent’s advice on volumes and other factors. On some markets, for example, a load of 30 pallets of one type of product will virtually paralyse the place. The attraction of smaller markets is that they offer competitive prices – sometimes higher than those in Joburg. But the secret is to avoid oversupplying them.

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It’s also necessary to understand the other requirements of a market. Joburg Market, for example, has buyers for every type of produce, but a smaller market normally doesn’t. A farmer who has enough produce to supply more than one market should have a good idea of what each can handle in terms of quantities, varieties, deliveries and quality. He can then match his products to the market concerned.

This is why I always emphasise that producers must visit the market/s they supply, so that they can understand them better and optimise their products’ potential.