Being in the fresh produce market agency business is not for the faint-hearted. It is a business that requires long hours, hard work and patience but most importantly trust, for without being trustworthy and reliable, you cannot be an effective market agent.
The RSA Group has been trading for over 30 years at fresh produce markets. They have businesses at six national and two regional markets across the country and employ more than 800 staff. RSA market agents service thousands of buyers both from South Africa as well as from neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Lesotho and Zambia.
Work for fresh produce agents begins in the early hours of the morning while most people are still sleeping. Fruit and vegetables from farmers arrives during the evening and the early hours of the morning. When the salesmen arrive at the market around 04h00, they need to check the any new stock that has arrived during the night, open the deliveries onto the computer system and walk the market floors to get an idea of overall volume in order to formulate price for the day. The market floors soon become noisy with lots of activity while market agents are kept busy with negotiating prices with buyers, making sales, speaking to farmers and filling orders. Salesmen or traders are the link between the farmer and the buyer as the buyer is actually the farmer’s customer.
Price discovery requires skilful trading as the farmer wants to sell at the highest price and the buyer wants to buy at the best price possible in order to resell at a profit. Supply and demand also plays a major role in the price determination and it can change accordingly.
Andries Erasmus, RSA Potato Section Head and salesman, who has been working on the market floor for over 25 years says on price discovery, “It’s a gut-feeling that every trader has when it comes to price determination. There are no fancy calculations. It’s purely a feeling that comes with experience and from knowing and understanding your industry.”
Fresh produce markets have created employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for thousands of people from sales agents to street hawkers and anyone can become a buyer on the market. All that is required is a buyer’s card as no cash is accepted on the market floor.
One could never have guessed that these establishments lie deep in cities around South Africa.
ProFreshionals – the wall street of fresh produce in South Africa