Hawkers and informal traders are by far the biggest marketing channel for the potatoes sold on Mzansi’s fresh produce markets, with these veggies offering traders a reliable, long-lasting product that is easy to sell. Potatoes are also the top-selling product for hawkers in many areas of the country.
Most of the potatoes sold on Mzansi’s fresh produce markets are marketed through the informal market, including hawkers and informal traders, says Potatoes South Africa (PSA), citing a recent study by fresh produce quality assurance service Prokon SA.
According to Prokon (Product Control for Agriculture), 65% of these potatoes reach their end users through the informal market, a marketing channel that is also growing much faster than the other channels that buy from fresh produce markets, including exporters, formal retailers and wholesalers.
Prokon’s figures show that the market share of the informal sector has been on the rise since 2013. This can be ascribed to an increase in the number of people entering the informal trade sector to make a living from the trade in vegetables and fruits.
During 2014/2015, PSA commissioned a study on the informal sector with the emphasis on hawkers and their clientele.
The study discovered that potatoes are a top selling product since it is easy to sell, attracts consumers and lasts longer compared to other fresh produce.
While the hawkers play a vital role as intermediaries to sell potatoes on from the fresh produce markets, they reported facing numerous challenges such selling space, storage facilities, transport and cash flow management.
For the consumers, hawkers are an important link in the value chain because they bring the produce right to the routes consumers use to get home. They also offer value for money and quality.
Earlier this year, PSA conducted a pilot study in four areas of the Gauteng Province – Atteridgeville, Mamelodi, Tembisa and the Nelson Mandela Market. The pilot study revealed that potatoes are the highest selling fresh product.
It was further discovered that about 53% of business operations that were interviewed are expanding their operations. The rest cited price fluctuations in the market place, limited resources and weather conditions as reasons that restrict them from expanding their businesses.
Through interview during the pilot study, hawkers confirmed that they need to sell good quality potatoes at all times because consumers want good quality potatoes at an affordable price.
Some other finding in the pilot studies that might be of value to potato farmers, are:
- Hawkers prefer medium, large and mixed (specifically large-medium) size potatoes;
- Potatoes are repacked into one kilogram bags;
- Potato prices range from R5.00 to R8.00 per kilogram depending on the location. For example, in Tembisa a kilogram of potatoes sells for R5.00.
- Sifra and Mondial are the most preferred cultivars by the hawkers because of continuous availability on the fresh produce markets and consumer preferences.