On August 2020, Cabinet Lekgotla approved the submission of the Agricultural Produce Agents Amendment Bill of 2018 to Parliament.
If the Bill follows passes master, export and livestock agents will be subject to the provisions and conditions of the Act.
”The current Act does not make any provision for a Disciplinary tribunal for both export and livestock agents. This is now contained in the Bill and if approved, will greatly enhance the focus of the Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC) to take relevant disciplinary action – similar to that of fresh produce agents currently” said the Registrar Francois Knowles.
APAC is charged with regulating the occupations of fresh produce, export, and livestock agents. With 28 years of unqualified audits, regulating an industry with excess of R18,2 billion annually, it was calling for the amendment of the bill which has not seen any amendments since 1992.
Fresh Produces Exporters Forum (FPEF), an industry body representing fruit exporters, noted its concern on the current Act in its 2019/2020 annual report.
“It is of concern that this Act is outdated (in force since 1992) and does not provide for the deregulated, free market conditions in which the fresh produce export industry operates.”
The FPEF flirtation with APAC, be an observer on the FPEB Board, was unknown as Section 24 of the current Act did not provide for investigations into the affairs of export or livestock agents.
In the current amendment, the Bill will now include export and livestock agents who will be subject to investigations by APAC.
By the department’s admission, export and livestock agents in the current Act were not compelled to fidelity insurance to protect producers against losses. Once passed into law, the Act will compel fresh produces, export and livestock agents to comply with the fidelity fund requirements – taking out insurance and keeping trust account records.
“Section 12A is inserted to safeguard the fidelity fund against claims by producers (depletion of fidelity fund)” said the department.
Currently, APAC had 111 export agencies and 76 livestock agencies registered, but it was also struggling to bring to book unregistered agents especially in the livestock industry.