Working as a market agent

The daily sales process is like a finely-tuned machine, and like any machine, it needs oil. In this case, that oil is communication.

Working as a market agent
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It all starts when the market agent calls selected buyers the night before to prime them on what fresh produce is expected the following morning. The agent is competing with others, after all, and cannot afford to be left behind.

Early in the morning, when the agent arrives on the floor, his first task is to check which loads came in overnight and ensure that everything is correct. Discrepancies are recorded and adjustments made on the computer.

If the produce is of poor quality or the containers damaged, the agent sends photographs of this to the farmer, following up with a phone call. All of this takes place before sales have officially started.

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During the morning, the agent might phone the farmer again to discuss prices or other issues.

In between, he will deal one-on-one with those who have come to inspect the produce, or phone buyers who have not yet arrived.

Planning ahead
Once sales have stopped – usually at 11am – the agent relays the final results to each farmer.

By law, he must email or fax a written record of the volumes sold and prices achieved for each farmer.

Most agents don’t stop there. After-sales service to buyers has to be monitored, glitches sorted out, and preparations made for the next day.

The agent must also phone farmers to learn what will be delivered the next day, or later. Finally, he has to ensure that night shift staff knows which loads to expect and where to place the produce.

Huge pressure
On a busy day, the pace can become hectic, especially as sales are compressed into a few hours.

As I’ve tried to show, communication is at the heart of it all. The good market agent has frequent, open and detailed discussions with buyers and farmers.

If he neglects to do this, the machine will grind to a halt, if not immediately, certainly in time. Are we the best we can be in this regard?

Michael Cordes is an agricultural journalist, consultant, trainer and former farmer.