The Competition Commission has heard that white farmers and market agents still operate along racial lines in the fresh produce market industry.
Market agents making submissions at the commission’s Fresh Produce Market Inquiry in Pretoria say there has been little to no transformation in the industry.
They say black farmers and market agents are precluded from benefitting from the multi-billion national fresh produce market.
The Competition Commission’s Fresh Produce Market Inquiry seeks to examine whether any features in the fresh produce value chain impede, restrict, or distort competition in the market.
Thomas Mawasha of the Council for Black Market Agents says 98 percent of sale agents at the Joburg market are white, while the majority of farmers providing the products are also white.
Mashawa says access to capital, transport, and farming land remain some of the major constraints for black emerging farmers.
“Of the R1,7 billion commission that was paid to market agents, black market agents in the country accounted for less than 1%, same applies with the R19,7 billion that was paid to the farmers, less than 1% of that money went to black producers so black market agents are struggling to break the racial pattern because this is an industry where white commercial farmers continue their long historically established relations with their white market agents,” says Mashawa.
Albert Lamley of Dapper Fresh Produce Agents says the fresh produce market is highly competitive with multiple agents going for the same farmers. He says it takes time for agents to build relationships with farmers which has posed challenges for emerging black market agents.
Lamley adds, “It takes years to build relationships with farmers. So it’s very difficult for a young agency to come in and do well. Unless he gets salesmen from the bigger agencies to come and join him. Because it takes years to build relationships with farmers, they’ve got to trust you and that takes time. So you don’t come in and things arrive there, you’ve got to make things happen, and that you need experience, relationships, it’s all that.”
All the market agents making submissions before the Commission agreed that it’s harder for emerging agents to secure supplies of onions, potatoes, tomatoes, citrus fruit and bananas.
Peter William of Dapper Fresh Produce Agents says this is largely due to the lack of established relationships with farmers.
“If someone comes in there and it’s a business-minded person and he’s drawing farmers and he really wants to make a difference on the market, he’ll be able to do it. Start on the veggies side and then build it up to citrus and potatoes. But to start with potatoes, he’s not going to have it easy, it takes time. Potatoes are expensive farming, citrus is expensive farming, veggies are cheaper.”
The first round of public hearings in the Fresh Produce Market Inquiry will continue until October 27.