High prices on the way

South Africans can expect higher vegetable prices in 2013, said Kobus van Heerden, Sakata Seeds’ national marketing manager.

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According to Van Heerden, this was due to many vegetable farmers, including large-scale producers, opting for maize production this planting season because of the strong maize price and the fact that they can mechanise production, leading to a lower vegetable supply.

However, Van Heerden said because of the bad economic climate and reduced buying power of consumers, vegetable farmers should stick to producing basic foodstuffs, such as potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, pumpkins and butternuts.

He also said there were important export opportunities for butternuts, especially to the UK. Van Heerden said there’s been swing away from pumpkins to butternuts in the past year, with pumpkin production having fallen to approximately 50% of what it was five years ago. According to the department of agriculture’s Abstract of Agricultural Statistics for 2012, some 57 300t of pumpkins were sold at all fresh produce markets in 2011.

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In comparison, 54 100t of butternut were sold in the same year. Van Heerden said this was due to positive consumer sentiment towards butternut. A long shelf-life and high sugar content also contributed to butternut’s popularity, he said. High input costs will continue to pose a challenge to farmers.