Prospects for emerging cabbage farmers

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Market for cabbage is huge

Cabbage grows best under cool conditions and is popular throughout the world because of its adaptability to a wide range of climatic conditions, ease of production and storage, as well as food value. In South Africa, cabbage is produced in all provinces, but production is concentrated in Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Free State and North West provinces (see Figure 1 below). As with most vegetable crops, cabbage is mostly produced for and marketed through the national fresh produce markets (NFPM), the informal market and chain stores.

Figure 1:  Cabbage production and quantity sold on major fresh produce markets

Source: Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

South Africa is not a major cabbage exporter. Only around 70% of cabbage produced is absorbed by the domestic fresh market and the remainder is being exported to the neighbouring countries. In 2018, South Africa represented 0.2% of world exports (in values) and it ranked number 30 in the world. South Africa has lost its export share and competitiveness in the world, as it was ranked slightly higher than 30 in world cabbage exports during years preceding 2018. China, Spain, United States of America and Mexico are top countries exporting cabbage.

Figure 2 below shows the trends in cabbage exports by value from 2009 to 2018. Cabbage exports grew at an annual average of 23.3% from USD4.4 million in 2009 to USD6.4 million in 2018. The major destinations for South Africa’s cabbage exports in 2018 were Botswana (27.9%), Lesotho (19.3%), Namibia (12.7%, United Kingdom (12.6%) and Mozambique (11.8%), amongst others.

Source: Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

Cabbage volumes are relatively higher at the moment compared to the same period last year. Prices are lower than last year with a weekly average of R2.28/kg (which is -20.1% year-on-year) for the week ending 19th July 2019. This is due to the relatively higher volumes produced this year compared to the last year caused by extreme weather changes. Prices over the last 3 months have been relatively stable.

The market for cabbages in South Africa is very huge and is ever increasing. South Africa consume more than 160 000 tonnes of cabbages per year. The growing and selling of cabbages in South Africa is a profitable business, and most emerging and/small scale farmers can succeed in this industry with necessary technical and financial support. There is a high demand for cabbages in South Africa owing to its high nutritional value and the ease with which it can be prepared. Cabbages are an easy pick when it comes to crops that are less hectic to grow and wielding several advantages. For instance, cabbages have high yield rates, can thrive in virtually any climate and require much less chemical inputs. The amount of profit made from cabbage crop depends on how well it meets market specifications.

Tebogo Mashabela is an Agricultural Economist by profession with two Master’s degrees, Master of Science (MSc) Agricultural Economics and Master of Business Admiration (MBA)

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