Deciduous fruit industry giant Hortgro has expressed its concern with the objectives of the Agricultural Produce Agents Council (APAC) amendment bill.
Hortgro believes it is not only “fundamentally flawed”, but also “demonstrates a lack of understanding”. Champions of the bill, however, believe that it will protect the receipt of monies on the sales of fresh produce on local municipal markets.
If implemented as proposed, it will have serious implications for the industry, foreign income and the economy, Hortgro believes.
In November 2020, the minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, Thoko Didiza, first introduced the APAC bill to the National Assembly.
According to the bill’s memorandum, APAC sets out to regulate the occupations of fresh produce, export and livestock agents and to maintain and enhance the status and dignity of the occupations and the integrity of persons practicing them.
Hortgro’s general manager for trade and markets, Jacques du Preez, believes it is an outdated bill that hasn’t kept up with how the global trading environment and industry has evolved.
He says the existing act was mostly in place to protect producers (of fresh produce, in their case) regarding the local market and mostly relating to municipal markets.
“The amended bill continues with some of this mindset and, in fact, if implemented as proposed will have serious financial implications for the industry, foreign income and the economy,” Du Preez says.
Hortgro hopes that sanity prevails
Hortgro believes the act was not drafted with export agents in mind and therefore have submitted a summary of main concerns to the portfolio committee dealing with the amendment bill.
The proposed amendment bill demonstrates a lack of understanding of the intricacies and complexity of the export agents’ operations, argues Hortgro. Its implementation will undermine the fresh produce industry.
“The intention of the act was to protect the receipt of monies on the sales of fresh produce, on the local municipal markets. There is a significant difference between local market agents and export agents regarding their operations and attendant risks,” Hortgro states.
Du Preez explains that the deciduous fruit industry, specifically, these days is an integrated business.
Growers now own the production units, pack houses and marketing companies, whether individually or as groups.
“The marketing companies will typically handle export as well as local market fruit, in many cases not in an agency type capacity. Stand-alone market agents are still around but they handle the minority of fruit these days and mentioned marketing companies deal with these agents,” Du Preez says.
With Hortgro’s submission to the portfolio committee, Du Preez says they have high hopes that sanity will prevail and an open-minded debate can take place taking the inputs from industry to heart.
“It’s about creating an enabling environment for the industry to flourish, create jobs and stimulate the economy,” he explains.