Span of seven horticultural crops farmers can juggle in a changing climate

In a rapidly changing climate, smallholder farmers should not stand on one leg but can dance with a span of seven horticultural commodities. If a farmer decides to produce two of the seven crops explained below, s/he has to choose the right combinations in line with market intelligence.

Broccoli & Cauliflower – These vegetables always move as a pair in the market therefore it may not be helpful to produce one of them. However, the mass market can buy as singles with cauliflower more preferred than broccoli. Cauliflower tends to have higher returns and can also be exported to South Africa through wholesale companies. They are entirely winter crops although varieties for the dry season are now available. Producing in Sept, Oct, Nov & Dec is highly profitable. Regular irrigation is critical. You can produce a minimum of 1000 heads for broccoli and 2000 for cauliflower. If you get the right quality, the mass market can buy at 50c per headalf to three months. They sell quickly in the mass market and you can earn $90 in one hour.

Lettuce – This vegetable is preferred by the hospitality industry (hotels), supermarkets and restaurants mainly for events like weddings. Producing at least 500 heads per week in winter will ensure regular income for a farmer. It does very well from September to April and you can increase your production to 1000 every week. The mass market tends to take more. Mbare agricultural market has more than 15 traders specializing on lettuce only. The popular market price is 40c/head which is a good price given 10c/head cost of production. It is also exportable and you can keep it for one week in the field without irrigation. In winter you can earn 25c – 30c /head while in summer you can get 50c – 80c /head.

Peppers (Green, Yellow & red) – Peppers are highly demanded by wholesalers, supermarkets and the mass market. The crop generally does well all year round and the average price is 45c – 80c/kg during the course of the year. It grows very well in August, Sept, December and May. In December peppers pay well due to the festive season. Red and yellow peppers – are special and expensive – sold by weight in kilogrammes. A farmer can earn $2/kg from 3 – 4 peppers (producer price). They are said to have higher nutritional content. A farmer can do 1000 – 2000 plants and survive economic setbacks.

Butternuts – Pay well in winter. You can grow in Jan/February although it is affected by cold and thus require careful management. Butternut can be grown in all areas around Zimbabwe. In warmer areas, the ideal growing period is August. All soils and areas like Mudzi are ideal. NGOs operating in marginal areas should help farmers in Mudzi, Buhera and Gokwe to grow this crop which is even exportable. It can stay for six months in the warehouse and also matures in storage. About 2000 plants are idea for a smallholder farmer. Generally they are put at 10 000 plants per hectare, giving you five fruits per plant. It does well in the mass market where it complements breakfast foods like bread or sweet potatoes. If you do it properly, 50 000 fruits @ 70 fruits per sasseka gives you 714 sassekas. The average price for a sasseka is $18 which can go to $40-50/sasseka in July, August, and September. At $18/bag you get $14 000. On the other hand, it does not cost more than $1 200 to grow one hectare. Each plant costs 25c to produce but gives you a $1.


Potato – If you get superior seed like Mondial, BP1and Vala, each plant will give you 2kg plus. You can sell at $8/pocket having graded 50% medium, 30% small and 20% large. At $8 you get 53c / kg = $1.06/plant. The cost of producing each plant is 25c including inputs and if you factor in marketing costs (5c), you remain with 70c/plant = $1 400 from 2000 plants occupying 550 square metres. It can be grown anywhere throughout the year. Every week you need 15 to 20 drums of water = 3000 to 4000 litres. The mass market is more ideal as well as restaurants and food outlets.


Onion – It’s an all year rounder and a perfect cash cow for farmers. Allow onions to mature on the land and then turn them upside down to ensure roots dry completely. You can hang the onions in your house and only take to market as demand rises. The biggest volume in Mbare agricultural market comes from Nyanga. The cost of production can be as low as 1c/plant. You can also sell dry or green although the crop sometimes pays more when green. You can do a seedbed in November, transplant in January and starting selling in May at $1.50 for 18 fruits. A smallholder farmer can do 15 – 30 000 plants on 200 – 300 square metres depending on spacing. Onions grow best in winter. Some farmers only do in summer to capitalize on the market. In January to May you produce small fruit because they are affected by rains and diseases. The mass market is usually the best.

Cabbage – Good for farmers close to the market because it is too bulky. It is easy to grow in all areas including Hwange and Victoria Falls. Producing 1000 – 2000 plants can give you 25 – 40c/head at farm gate. Most farmers now want traders to come to farms. This means transferring all risks such as transportation and accommodation to traders. However, you can’t market everything from the farm because traders don’t take poor or average quality which you will have to bring to the market on your own. It costs 6 -10c to produce a single head as well as 6c to transport and market from a distance of 40km to the market.




A total of 5732 farmers supplied 42 different commodities into Mbare Agriculture market during the month of March 2015 generating a collective Expected Revenue (ER) of $ 1,576,844.15 an increase from February’s figure by 16%.

Table 1: produce supplied to Mbare in March 2015


Table 2: Produce Classes supplied to the market


The above table shows all the produce supplied to the market, quantity (in respective units of measurement and tonnage) and the ER for each product type.

Table 3: Expected Revenue (E R) by produce class


Chart 1: E R Share per produce class


Table 4: E R by Province


Chart 2: E R per province


Chart 3: E R per District


Chart 4: ER share per District


Table 5: Top ten E R earning Districts


Table 6: Top Ten E R earning produce


Table 7: Gender disparities


Chart 5: Gender disparities


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2 thoughts on “Span of seven horticultural crops farmers can juggle in a changing climate

    1. Yes, as you can see that’s profitable. We are trying to alert people to the power of what seems small figures. That’s where our farmers lose the game.


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