Besides their butternut crops which are produced for retail outlets, a variety of the cucurbit grown purely for processing plays a big part in Habata Agri’s overall operation.
While the smaller variety of butternuts are packaged in specially designed Habata bags for different outlets, there is also a strong focus placed on the atlas variety for processing purposes.
The Sundays River Valley company have negotiated a contract to supply In2food with this variety, which is then processed and sold through Woolworths in either packaged chunks or as ready-made soup.
Habata operations manager Gary Webb said the chief difference between the varieties was that the atlas butternut grew to a much bigger size.
“This variety can grow to up to five kilograms as opposed to the size you will buy in shops, which is between half and 1.2 kilograms,” he said.
“The bigger the product is the better for processing. There is basically nothing else you can do with it due to its size.”
Because they are too big for packing in bags, Webb said they were placed in bins before being transported to factories in Gauteng for processing.
“The taste is very similar to the other varieties, but it has a very firm flesh, which gives it a bit more weight.
“Other than that they are exactly the same as the other butternuts in terms of the way we cultivate them.”
Webb said they harvested less fruit per plant but they were still able to get good yields.
He added that the production of the atlas variety for processing had been in place for several years and they supplied In2food with about 60 tonnes per month.
“Sometimes they can take a bit more, but the amount we supply is also dependent on the season and other producers in the country,” he said.
“For example, at the beginning of the season or towards the end we may supply a bit less than at the height of the season.”