The first round of public hearings will run from Oct. 18 to Oct. 27 and form part of the inquiry's information and evidence gathering processes.
To date, the inquiry has gathered extensive information from a wide range of stakeholders across the value chain and held workshops with SME and HDP farmers across various parts of the country, Deputy Head of the Competition Commission Hardin Ratshisusu said at the opening of the public hearings.
The public hearings will represent another opportunity for stakeholders to present their views on the challenges and potential solutions. 39 potential stakeholders, including major retailers, were invited to the first round of hearingsб 15 of them will participate in a dedicated session with the Inquiry. The remaining stakeholders declined Inquiry's invitation for various reasons, but the Commission does not exclude that a second round of public hearings will be organized later with their participation.
During the hearings, the stakeholders will answer the Inquiry's questions on the data they have previously presented. The hearings will be live-streamed at Fresh Produce Market Inquiry Public Hearings - YouTube.
As part of the Fresh Produce Market Inquiry, the South African competition authority will examine the entire fresh produce supply chain in the country. The regulator will focus on identifying any signs of anti-competitive behavior or price collusion within the chain.
The Commission selected five fruits and vegetables each to analyze. The selection was based on the most important items in the South African food basket: tomatoes, potatoes, apples, bananas, citrus fruits, etc.
The Commission’s records show that of 1,254 excessive pricing investigations during Covid-19, 713 of them related to basic food and fresh produce. This shows the potential for abusive conduct relating to essential food items where market circumstances change suddenly, according to the regulator.
The Fresh Produce Market Inquiry is focused on examining the efficiency of the value chain, the dynamics of key inputs and their impact on producers and the barriers to entry facing small businesses and HDP producers Sipho Ngwema, Head of Communications at the Competition Commission, told SABC News.
Public hearings make the process of discussing important information more open, Ngwema emphasized. "We want to be transparent so that when we make the recommendations at the end, people understand the kind of evidence that we have collected," he explained.