At last, here is an industry leader saying what I’ve been writing in my column for years. This is not about vindication, however. All that matters is to get this crucial message about good fresh produce marketing across to farmers.
And Van Zyl is the ideal person to do that. He has an uncanny ‘feel’ for markets and how they operate. For this and many other reasons, he is highly regarded by his peers in the fresh produce sector.
In the Farmer’s Weekly interview, he touched on one or two issues that are well worth reiterating. For example, he mentioned the importance of regular communication between farmer and market agent. Far too many farmers don’t do this, despite the fact that they entrust the agent with produce worth thousands of rands.
The farmer’s business partner
Look upon your market agent as your ‘sales manager’, someone you need to talk to regularly. Remember, the market floor is effectively an extension of your farm gate.
Van Zyl talks about the market agent being the farmer’s ally. I only wish more fruit and vegetable growers would realise that.
This leads me to another important point made by Van Zyl: choosing an agent. He covered all the main requirements, but his comment that the “agent is your source of income and you have to know you can trust him” cannot be over-emphasised.
Establishing that trust relationship
You can only market your produce successfully through building a trust relationship with your agent. This takes time, but it’s well worth it in the long run.
My wish is for every fresh produce grower in the country to read the interview and follow Van Zyl’s advice. Here is an effective, common sense approach to profitable fruit and vegetable marketing.
Michael Cordes is an agricultural journalist, consultant, trainer and former farmer.