The frenzy and importance of the Joburg Market
The scene is one of adrenaline-fuelled energy as huge farm trucks are unloaded at speed, urgent deals are made with produce agents and vehicles – cars, bakkies, vans, small trucks – are piled high with potatoes, green peppers, tomatoes, bananas, onions, string beans, chillies, cabbages, lettuces, pears and apples. Some leave with just one or two boxes, carrying their purchase in their hands or balancing it on their heads.
About 10 000 people on average visit Joburg Market – formerly Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market – every day.
Everybody is there: housewives in aprons, businessmen of every description jabbing their forefingers at calculators, street hawkers clutching a few hundred rand, farmers in two-tone shirts, smoking beside their trucks as they are unloaded.
One man tells me: “I spend about R400 here every day on fruit and veg. Then I sell it for about R800. That’s my job.”
Providing such opportunities is a role that the market takes seriously. “The location is just 5km from the city centre and many street hawkers walk here,” says Thomas Mawasha, head of marketing and communications.
The market educates emerging farmers about aspects such as packaging. New banana growers in Limpopo, for instance, are provided with generically printed “Produce of Limpopo” boxes.
“Many of them don’t realise that people don’t want to buy produce in crates, for example. We charge them for the boxes but only after their produce has been sold,” says Mawasha.
Supplied by about 5 000 farmers, it is the biggest fresh produce market in the world by volume, he says.
“The Rungis market in Paris is bigger, but it is not only a fresh produce market. It also sells poultry and fish, and it has hotels and rents out cars and so on.”
Joburg Market moves about 1Mt of produce every year, with buyers coming from as far away as Zambia. By comparison, Rungis moves 823 000t.
Elvis, a worker loading a truck taking produce to Durban, says he makes the return trip every day.
“It’s not uncommon,” says Mawasha. “Of the 20 municipal markets in SA, Joburg Market has a 38% share of the fresh-produce market and is by far the biggest. As a retailer you will not find anywhere else in the country the variety, quality or price for produce that you get here.
“In addition, Johannesburg is the most accessible city in SA, which is part of the reason for its popularity.”
The Tshwane market, at half the size, is the country’s second-biggest, followed by Cape Town with 12% market share.
Joburg Market generates turnover of R3,8bn/year – or R17m/day – of which the city gets 5%.
A vital link in the chain between farms and consumers is the agents, who are contracted by farmers to sell their produce. They earn commission of 7,5% on gross. It leaves 87,5% for the farmers…..
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