Keeping Joburg Fresh
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Joshua Mann
Joburg Market (JM) – formerly known as Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market – has long played a critical role in setting the price barometer for the fresh produce industry in South Africa, representing a “huge, sprawling marketplace that swarms with people from the early hours of the morning”, and with a clear strategy in place to uphold this influence long into the future.
Comprising 40 percent of the national fresh produce market (FPM) in terms of both volume and turnover, the Company is the only FPM accredited by the South African National Accreditation System; one of many accolades which instils a sense of responsibility within the market that few can parallel.
“The Company is 100 percent owned by the City of Johannesburg (COJ) Metropolitan Municipality. It was created in terms of the provision for alternative delivery mechanisms as embodied in the Municipal Systems Act and became a private Company wholly owned by the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality in 2000. It was later converted into a state-owned Company in line with the implementation of the Companies Act of South Africa,” Acting CEO, Josiah Mazibuko explains. “[Over the years] the Company has rigidly adhered to its mandate and core business of providing and managing world-class facilities for the fresh produce markets Industry, while remaining agile and responsive to market industry trends.”
With significance spanning beyond SA borders and into the wider SADC region also, JM continues to operate a comprehensive and integrated trading system optimising the latest technologies in order to improve its yields and tonnages year-on-year.
Arguably its most significant differentiator though is its identity and set of principles; philosophies that have led the Company to the success it has achieved so far, and is set to continue to achieve over the coming years.
“The strategy of the organisation deserves special mention as it defines the route that Joburg Market will be pursuing moving forward,” Mazibuko continues. “The Company is mandated to manage and operate a market facility through the provision of world-class facilities and complementary services to the fresh produce industry. This will include the provision and management of profitable facilities and services for the distribution of fresh produce; ensuring a competitive trading platform for fresh produce trading; enabling market access, sustainable availability and affordable fresh produce; and ensuring food safety and quality standards thus promoting healthy lifestyles.”
Ultimately, this will contribute to JM’s vision of being the preferred world-class African fresh produce market and to operate as such in a way that promotes socio-economic transformation and inclusion.
Mazibuko adds: “The values of JM are embedded in the trust relationship with our stakeholders operating within the fresh produce marketing environment. As an entity we hold values including transparency and integrity in all we do, service excellence, quick responses to business challenges, value for our employees and taking accountability for our actions.”
The widest assortment of produce
The FPM in South Africa is a matured industry which calls for the kinds of quality standards showcased by JM, who adopts a strategy based on achieving key organisational priorities aligned to the objectives of its provincial and Governmental owners.
Areas of financial stability, productivity, workforce engagement, corporate social responsibility and food safety are all integrated under this umbrella and are critical domains of expertise considering the services that the Company renders; namely financial services, engineering, HR, risk management, trade, property, IT, sales, and food safety inspection.
Such attributes represent a journey as well as a success story, with JM’s origins reaching back more than a century.
Mazibuko says: “The Joburg Market was established as a fresh produce market in 1893 at the Market Square in central Johannesburg where more than 3,000 people used to congregate to trade in fresh produce. The economic boom emanating from the Gold Rush era resulted in a fast growth of the city and subsequently the trading of fresh produce. To accommodate this monumental growth, new facilities were built around Newtown (Johannesburg) in 1913 and the Company achieved an annual turnover of R1.5 million in that year. As trade increased further over the years, the Newtown premises became too small to handle large consignments thus necessitating the relocation of the market to its current 64 hectare site in City Deep.”
Numerous milestones have dictated JM’s rise to prominence ever since, over the course of World Wars and domestic revolution, but the Company has remained a reliable constant throughout and is thriving to this day more than at any other time.
“JM renders a series of services which facilitate the trading of fresh produce between farmers and buyers,” Mazibuko details. “The Company has approximately 5,000 producers who are marketing their produce through its trading floors, thus ensuring the widest assortment of produce in various grades and sizes are available to buyers.
“Depending on the marketing season, between 9,500 and 11,000 buyers from across South Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region frequent JM on a daily basis.”
And, all the while, the Company works tirelessly to ensure that everything is in place to provide the best environment possible for each and every buyer; spending more than R88 million in the current financial year alone on updating, upgrading and improving Joburg Market.
Developing at a rapid rate
Ensuring the effective delivery of all new processes, technologies, equipments and ideologies is a staff complement of 341 permanent employees primarily derived from disadvantaged communities and – most importantly – local, women and youth segments.
Combining all facets results in a series of differentiators that makes Joburg what it is today and sets it apart from other FMPs in the industry.
“The Joburg Market is developing at a rapid rate as a regional market and hub for South Africa and the rest of SADC,” emphasises Mazibuko. “It remains the biggest market of its kind in Africa and the southern hemisphere of the world. More than 40 percent of all fresh produce destined for South African Markets goes through the Joburg Market; and the Company serves as principal price discovery mechanism and can handle large quantities of produce and numerous varieties and product sizes. More than 1.3 million metric tonnes of produce flowed through the Joburg Market in the past financial year.
“The Joburg Market also serves as an effective ‘one-stop’ buying facility. Buyers find all their fresh produce needs at JM, saving them cost. The participation of many buyers and many producers render it a highly competitive trading environment.”
The formulation of numerous local strategic partners; a strict adherence to the very latest food safety, environmental and BEE initiatives; and the sheer volume of area on hand for the Company further supports its role as a literal market leader and has set it up perfectly for the latest strategic objectives laid out for 2016/17.
“The fresh produce market system in South Africa is a matured industry which requires upgrading of amenities to world-class food handling standards as well as re-engineering of its business processes, people and systems,” Mazibuko notes. “The following has been identified as strategic objectives for the 2016 /17 financial year: to ensure financial sustainability and growth of the entity; to operate a sustainable resilient world-class marketing and trading facility; to become an agent for socio-economic transformation, to ensure that our staff are engaged, skilled, motivated and satisfied; to become a high-performance organisation; and to ensure effective stakeholder engagement.”
The potential that exudes from these ambitions embrace huge benefits of scale, hassle-free marketing, enhanced ease of buying, a vastly improved infrastructure, a more refined price making mechanism, and heightened experience across the internal structure of the Company.
And ultimately, with these aspects in place, Joburg Market will continue to uphold its proud tradition as the flagship Market in South Africa, and indeed the wider SADC region.