IMASA

IMASA

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It was an affair to remember. The 69th Annual General Meeting of the Institute of Market Agents of South Africa, more commonly known as IMASA, was held recently in Durban. The popular format of a Panel Discussion on day one followed by the AGM on day two was replaced by a Strategic Planning Session for members and a small group of selected guests on day one.

With a new President (Grant Norman was elected at the previous AGM) setting a cracking pace, supported by a dedicated Executive Committee and the IMASA 70th birthday looming 12 months away, it was decided to reposition and refocus IMASA in line with current developments in the fresh produce sector. It all started in January when the Executive met in Cape Town for a full day’s Indaba. These in-depth discussions evolved into a Strategic Business Plan for the Institute. It remained only to get the members’ approval at the AGM.

This might sound at first seem like a sudden awakening for IMASA but in fact, it started a number of years ago as each incumbent President put the building blocks in place for what culminated in Durban recently. Deon van Zyl the previous President, set the ball rolling when Project Rebirth was launched at the 66th AGM in 2011. It started as a modest but genuine effort with a Task Force of three people who were mandated by the members to identify markets that were in serious need of help and then to find ways and means to restore them to what they should be – modern fresh produce commission markets! Project Rebirth has now become a fully-fledged national forum for uplifting markets. IMASA handed over the reins to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries (DAFF) which has a representative Steering Committee attending to all the markets needing help.

The enormity of this undertaking is perhaps not fully appreciated by many people and the fact that IMASA not only initiated Project Rebirth but continues to serve on the Steering Committee is testimony to its leadership and vision. Given IMASA’s reputation (mostly perceived) for being an outdated old boys club this far-reaching initiative has brushed away the cobwebs of time and opened market agents to a new, exciting world. IMASA is now poised to take its rightful place as a leader in the fresh produce sector. The Strategic Planning Session held Thursday 18 September 2014 repositioned IMASA in relation to other role-players in the fresh produce sector but also gave the President and his Executive the ‘teeth’ to go out there and take on the challenges of the industry.

Amongst the decisions taken was the approval of a Value Proposition for members to enhance IMASA’s services to its members. These would include launching an IMASA website, use of social media like Facebook and investigation into the appointment of a full time secretariat. Other key deliverables in terms of Project Rebirth will be the Code of Best Practice for markets and market agents which is in an advanced stage of development.. Insurance for produce in a market coldroom or ripening chamber is currently a vexing issue and this will be addressed with vigour. And infrastructure upgrades on markets continues as a top priority. Market agents as role-players as well as members of IMASA will be seriously involved in all these activities.

Members agreed that strategic alliances are essential in today’s business environment and IMASA will not only strengthen existing alliances but will seek new ones which can be mutually beneficial. It was agreed that IMASA should apply for membership of Agbiz – Agricultural Business Chamber – where considerable benefits can be had as a member. Given the political landscape in this country it is essential for an organization like IMASA to have some kind of access to decision-makers in government and elsewhere. Membership of Agbiz will facilitate this.

Those who know the history of IMASA will agree these are far-reaching developments for the Institute and underline its already active role in the fresh produce markets sector. As part of building ‘Confidence in Produce’ IMASA will be seen at more farmers’ days and be more active at these events through presentations, distributing information brochures and displaying banners. The Executive has been tasked to investigate the whole question of transformation and attracting the youth to the markets and market agencies. This goes hand in glove with existing initiatives from DAFF, APAC and the PMA which are ongoing and where market agents can derive benefit. IMASA already plays a key role in the AgriBEE Charter Council.

In keeping with changing times, the President presented the new IMASA logo at the AGM which depicts the organization in modern terms using simplicity and attractive colours to create ‘Brand IMASA’. The above items are merely a ‘sketch’ of everything that needs to be done but they do give the reader some idea of what lies ahead. Each of the issues mentioned is in itself a complex organism which requires dedicate people to administer and resolve where necessary. IMASA accepts these challenges with certainty because the way forward has been identified and ‘Brand IMASA’ is taking the lead.

Derek Martin has served on the committee of IMASA since 2013 and is actively involved in Project Rebirth