“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.