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CityPress - - Business -

“Both al­le­ga­tions are un­true,” said Jaco Oosthuizen, manag­ing di­rec­tor of the RSA Group.

RSA’s pro­duce ac­counts for up to 28% of sales at the enor­mous Jo­han­nes­burg mar­ket and about 22% of the Tsh­wane one.

“The com­mis­sions vary. The only fixed part of it is the 5% the city coun­cil takes for manag­ing the premises and act­ing as a ref­eree,” he said.

“They are in charge of ev­ery trans­ac­tion. They have data on ev­ery sin­gle trans­ac­tion.”

The com­mis­sion al­leges that this trade data has shown sus­pi­cious pat­terns of pric­ing.

How­ever, Oosthuizen coun­tered this, say­ing: “They see a pat­tern that does not ex­ist. It is self­con­tra­dic­tory.

“Why would the farmer sell low early in the day? It is ab­so­lutely lu­di­crous. They are not our goods. Own­er­ship re­mains with the farmer.

“I do not un­der­stand why they would do this,” he said of the agri­cul­ture de­part­ment’s com­plaint.

Oosthuizen sug­gested that some­one might be try­ing to desta­bilise what he called a well-func­tion­ing mar­ket.

“This is a trans­par­ent way of dis­cov­er­ing price ... It is a sys­tem that has pro­vided cred­i­ble ref­er­ence pric­ing since time im­memo­rial and it is com­pletely reg­u­lated.” Oosthuizen said his com­pany was cooperating with the com­mis­sion. “They had ac­cess to all my com­put­ers. They did not take much.” There was an in­ves­ti­ga­tion around potato mar­ket­ing at the Jo­han­nes­burg mar­ket in 2007, but noth­ing came of it, he said.

An­ton Vos, manag­ing di­rec­tor of Sub­trop­ico, also claimed the al­le­ga­tions were non­sense. Sub­trop­ico was also sub­jected to raids this week. The com­pany con­trols roughly 20% of sales out of the Jo­han­nes­burg and Tsh­wane fresh pro­duce mar­kets, ac­cord­ing to Vos.

“We def­i­nitely do not ma­nip­u­late the price. They do not un­der­stand how the mar­ket works,” he told City Press.

“There is no way you could ma­nip­u­late the mar­ket price. If, hy­po­thet­i­cally, you could, the farm­ers would ben­e­fit. But the buy­ers are also able to go di­rectly to farm­ers [if prices are too high].

“They came yes­ter­day [Thurs­day] with a war­rant to go through all the pa­per­work in the of­fice. We co­op­er­ated 100%,” he said. “In this coun­try, you are in­no­cent un­til proven guilty.” Ac­cord­ing to Vos, price vari­ances re­sult from a va­ri­ety of fac­tors.

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