Aside from the comforting prospect that government is held to account in closed sessions where it must answer for budget spend and progress, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group’s meetings are a vital source of information for our various pages, particularly areas not covered frequently in the agricultural press.
We were relieved to see a recent (virtual) meeting on the national fresh produce markets, conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to receive a briefing from (DALRRD), and the Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC) (2021, March). Our “Fresh Produce Markets” page has long relied on the notes from expert Mike Cordes, and it has been time to do an update.
The Importance of our Fresh Produce Markets
We have been told that this feature of the South African market place is alone in the world: South Africa’s fresh produce markets are the only system of fresh produce commission markets in the world (Jansen, 2017).
Our national fresh produce markets features in most planning for agriculture. The Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) identified revitalising fresh produce markets as a key output to address trade and market opportunities for SMMEs including smallholder farmers, for example.
NFPMs sold 3.4 million tons of fresh vegetables and fruits with a turnover of R17 billion in 2019, the committee was told.
A Marketing Channel for Farmers
NFPMs are a trading platform where farmers see what value is being placed on their produce. NFPMs set the standard or benchmark, leaving the farmer with the choice of holding produce back and/or selling elsewhere.
Our page “Marketing” sets out different ways for a farmer to sell produce. FPMs is covered here, and the advantages listed as (i) being able to take advantage of higher prices in times of short supply, if they have produce available; (ii) the FPM being able to sell large quantities of farmers’ produce; and (iii) being able to employ the services of an agent to perform the task of marketing.
People living in cities and urban areas rely on being able to purchase their food, rather than growing it themselves. The NFPM are a vital location for the buying of fruit and vegetables.
Local Economic Development (LED)
The food procured at the NFPMs finds its way to the public via a number of entrepreneurs. The familiar sight of hawkers on the side of the road or at traffic lights is an immediate example which comes to mind; or bakkies, loaded with boxes or loose vegetables and fruit clearly visible. Not only is food being made available, but people are generating an income.
Challenges for NFPMs
Readers of Mike Cordes’ column in the Farmer’s Weekly would be familiar with the fact that things are not always smooth running at the NFPMs. Problems listed at the committee meeting include:
- Declining service standards;
- Municipalities not reinvesting municipal revenue into markets;
- Continued physical infrastructure deterioration;
- Non-conformance to food safety & health standards;
This has led to Operation Rebirth.
Operation Rebirth is a “collaborative effort between Government and the fresh produce industry to improve and revive the operations and service standards of NFPMs across the country”. All the role players are involved, we are told: producer bodies, agents, the regulator (APAC) and advisory body (NAMC), and government.
Key interventions are set out in five phases, and the challenges to these interventions identified. These include the lack of continuity and stability at market management level, and the majority of municipalities being unwilling to reinvest a portion of 5% market revenue into market.
Recommendations and the Way forward
The presentation concludes with its Recommendations and the Way forward. View the committee meeting notes for more details.
- Our “Fresh Produce Markets” and “Marketing” pages
- Overviews of the country’s fruit, vegetables and nuts sectors are available at https://agribook.co.za/horticulture/
Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash