A fresh produce market is a place where both the buyer and the seller come together and negotiate the price of fresh produce. Once agreed on a price, then a transaction can take place. The seller (farmer), is represented by a market agent (salesman). Most farmers and salespeople have a generational relationship of mutual interest,  making it a rare occasion for a white commercial farmer to supply a black agent. Majority of buyers are micro traders (informal traders), followed by retailers, wholesalers, processors, and others. Retailers and wholesalers receive massive discounts for individually purchasing more, while the fragmented micro traders, who purchase less as individuals, but more as a unit, lose out on discounts.

Statistics (2016) from the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries indicated that the combined turnover for all 19 markets in the country was R15.7 billion. Less than 1% of this figure represents black participation! The most purchased high-value crops are potatoes (36%) R3billion, onions (20%) R1, 64 billion, tomatoes (20%) R1, 6 billion, this represents 75% of all vegetables in the market, bananas (25%) R1, 2billion, apples, (20%) R999 million, citrus (12%) R644million and citrus at (38%) R1, 9 billion.

Of the nineteen fresh produce markets, the Cape Town Fresh Produce Market is privatized, however, the city still owns the facility. The Joburg Market is corporatized with a CEO, enjoying some laissez-faire. The rest of markets are still under the management and direct control of municipalities, resulting in a dearth of operational freedom, red tape, indecision, which compromise service delivery. Black market agents and black farmers are left at the mercy of dysfunctional municipalities who have no clear blueprint for the transformation of this value chain.

White owned market agencies control over ninety-nine percent (99%) of the fresh produce market economy, due to historical practices and laws such as land dispossession of Africans and other apartheid policies that deprived black people economic participation. White agencies benefit from sustainable, quality and scaled throughput emanating from white producers who possess vast tracks of land, allowing them to produce in large scale and benefit from economies of scale. The white farmers have access to finance through utilizing land as a collateral to purchase high-performance seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. Water has been privileged and appropriated to white farmers, thereby qualifying unfair competition. The next advantage arises from access to agro logistics such as pack houses that assist in washing, sorting, grading, packaging, labeling of fresh produce in accordance with the Agricultural Product Standard Act of 1990. These advantages, including transportation of fresh produce to markets on time, qualifies white farmers as the sole producers of quality and arbiters of key agricultural trajectory and white market agents as owners of fresh produce emporium in South Africa. This is abnormal and does nothing to promote economic transformation as well as the renewal of the Afrikan spiritual, mental and soul to usher a sense of competitiveness, self-reliance, dignity and an opportunity to work hard for self-sustenance. This matter needs to be addressed as the first attack on racism, white supremacy, and bigotry.

The role of black market agents is primarily to inspire black farming communities and farmers who have been historical, politically, and racially dispossessed of their land; deliberately denied modern farming skills, the economics of food production, skills, knowledge and left bereft of means to self-development and reliance. This was a systematic political and social construct to render the Afrikan a socio-economic and spiritual eunuch.

The Council for Black Market Agents supports the expropriation of land without compensation and further calls on the government when doing so, to promulgate a concomitant agro developmental legislation or policy that promotes and affirms 360° value chain to effect meaningful transformation. The following non-negotiables should be addressed parallel to expropriated agricultural land;

Institutional Arrangement

  • The establishment of a body to develop, promote, regulate, and administer the fresh produce value chain in South Africa, and given the mandate to transform this value chain.
  • The body should comprise of the South African Union of Food Markets (SAUFM), producer organizations such as Potato SA, Subtropical Growers Association of SA, Tomato producers Organization, Deciduous Fruit development Chamber, Land Bank, National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC).
  • This body should promote the structural development of black farmers and rural communities and ensure that products from black farmers reach markets on time.

Government Involvement

  • Government should prepare a smooth land hand over to black farmers and ensure that land recipients are not set up for failure.
  • Water should be made available to black farmers unconditionally.
  • The government together with all its institutions relating to agriculture should develop a single-minded agricultural implements, machinery and agro-logistics fund for black farmers.

Black farmers

  • Unity of black farmers is sacrosanct to the productive utilization of land and the intended restoration of dignity, hope, promise, and racial parity.
  • Black farmers producing for markets, regardless of the diversity of organizations, should unite under an Institutional Arrangement banner.
  • Size of land appropriated to black farmers should be relative to the need of each farmer.
  • High-value crops such as potatoes, tomatoes, onions, curcubits, carrots, beetroots, etc. should be allocated land relative to market demand for respective tonnage.
  • Farming of apples in non-traditional areas such as Mpumalanga and Eastern Free State should be encouraged. This offers opportunities for government, the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber (DFDC) and black farmers in those areas to have the land expropriated for this purpose.

Agro logistics

  • Agricultural nodes should have dedicated pack houses that sorts, washes, grades, package and distribute fresh produce to markets in time.
  • Trucks should be financed through the DTI for local business to transport fresh produce from farms to markets on time.

Open access to markets

The government should ensure that more black agents are given space to operate nationwide as there will be adequate throughput to sustain such businesses.

Author: Serole Magopa II Chairperson of the Council for Black Market Agents

076 847 9184/083 470 5230 smagopa2@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of AgriFoodNetwork.

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