Habata Agri exported a consignment of cabbages to Lesotho in recent months after South Africa’s neighbours experienced extreme weather conditions during spring.
Operations manager Gary Webb explained that the mountain kingdom’s borders were usually opened to outside suppliers when heavy frost and snow made it impossible to harvest their own crops.
“This is when we’ve got a gap to supply to them. Our slot was to supply from mid-September to mid-November.”
Webb said they’ve missed the Lesotho market in recent years and that the prices came under extreme pressure as a result.
“About 90 per cent of our crops went to Lesotho, so it’s been a good season.”
He said they concluded their delivery of cabbages slightly earlier than the due date, which was unexpectedly beneficial.
“Towards the latter part of the season, prices started to come under pressure again, so we finished just at the right time.”
Supplying to Lesotho had benefits when comparing their market landscape with that of South Africa, said Webb.
“The average South African middle-class citizen doesn’t eat cabbage. They would much rather go to their local retailer and buy already cut vegetables.
“The culture here is very different to Lesotho. Over there, they would throw a whole cabbage in a pot with some mince and they’re satisfied, so the demand is much greater.”
Webb admitted that the local market was very limited.
“It is saturated after just one load to Johannesburg, one to Cape Town and a quarter to Port Elizabeth.
“For the rest of the year, up until July, Lesotho are able to plant their own cabbage and that can be tough for us because we temporarily lose market share.”
He said it took about 90 days from planting to harvesting, so they would begin the process in late-June to be able to supply by mid-September.
As a rotational crop that is largely used to plough back nutrients into the soil for their other produce, Webb said they were pleased to receive a greater return from cabbage harvesting.
“It serves us mainly as a rotational crop, but it’s always nice to make direct money out of it. It’s almost a pity that we didn’t grow extra hectares this year.
“Going forward I think we’ll stick to what we did this year because it was definitely worth our while and at least we will still have a rotational crop to serve multiple purposes.”