A rising tide of dissatisfaction is brewing in the National Fresh Produce Markets (NFPM’s) nationwide. This stems from the Section 7 investigation Committee Report published by the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) on transformation in the NFPM’s.
Leading the charge was the Council for Black Market Agents (CBMA), who in the investigation report claim that their members were purposefully prevented from thriving in the NFPM’S.
The report by NAMC makes damning findings purported to be carried out in the NFPMs. Top among the findings was that black-market agents were prevented from top-selling commodities such as potatoes, onions, bananas, apples and tomatoes.
On account of NFPM figures, these commodities contributed 65% of the total NFPM’s turnover. The report was however thin in naming the NFPM’s practising such conduct.
CBMA was reached to clarify the report findings but failed to respond. In the report, CBMA blamed perpetual generational relationships which blocked supplies from predominantly white commercial farmers to black-market agents.
“These products are produced by commercial farmers who may not necessarily want to supply the black-market agents,” said the NAMC.
On top of this frustration, CBMA also claimed that new black agents were not allocated minimum trading floor space.
The Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC), a body legislated under Section 2 of the Agricultural Produce Agent’s Act (1992) with the mandate to regulate the occupation of fresh produce, export and livestock agents, said it was never privy to the report nor received any complaints from the CBMA.
“We assisting and training black agents to becoming administratively efficient by giving them the tools and equipping them with the necessary skills and know-how required to comply with statutory obligations of fresh produce agents” said Francois Knowles, APAC Registrar.
According to APAC, of the 98 market agencies registered only 22 of these were black majority owned, 59 had some sorts of BBEE certification.
APAC did not want to be drawn into the Section 7 investigation report of the NAMC. “Our function is limited to the formulation of policy, establishment of rules and codes of conduct, hiring, purchasing or otherwise acquiring such movable or immovable property or such interest in movable or immovable property as APAC may deem necessary in the effective performance of its functions” said Knowles.
The NFPM’s is a highly regulated industry. You would remember that in 2017 the Competition Commission conducted search and seizure of 9 suspected fresh produce market agents.
It suspected these agencies of colluding; keeping prices low during certain periods and increasing prices significantly as soon as smaller agents run out of stock.
As part of its recommendations, the NAMC implored NFPM’s management to develop transformation policies and render mentorship in management aspects for the new black-market agents.