The cabbages grown at Habata Agri are somewhat overshadowed by produce such as melons and citrus, but the hardy vegetables have an important role to play in the grand scheme of things.
Financial director Jurgens Steenkamp explained cabbages were a good rotational crop as they could be ploughed back into the soil, providing valuable nutrients for the other produce.
“We plough all the leaves and cabbages we don’t harvest back into the soil as green material, so it’s good for our melons and that,” he said.
Steenkamp said they would only harvest around 80 per cent of the cabbages as not all would meet the required standards.
“Some plants don’t make it and others don’t form a decent head. What we pick is based according to the size of the cabbage head.”
The ideal cabbage head, according to him, was one that weighed around 3kg.
“If you put eight cabbages in a bag it should weigh about 24kg,” he explained.
Hardy, easy to grow crops, Steenkamp said their green coronet variety was particularly good as it had a longer shelflife than others.
“It takes a bit longer for them to come into production but the nice thing is that you’ve almost got a week and a half to pick them. Other varieties will burst if you don’t pick them, but green coronet heads have a shelflife of maybe 10 days.”
This year Habata have planted 30 hectares of cabbages at their Eastern Cape-based facility and hope to produce roughly 28 000 plants per hectare.
They were on track to meet those goals as they had altered the layout of their fields somewhat, he said.
“Where we used to plant ridges with double rows, we now plant single rows. We think the plants will be less competitive with each other so it’s definitely a better planting method,” said Steenkamp, who added much of the expected 80 tonnes was aimed at the Lesotho market.
While the landlocked country have yet to open their borders to imports, Steenkamp said they expected they would after a frosty winter.
“If there are cabbages available in Lesotho then they don’t open up the borders and we don’t have access. This season we’re waiting to hear if they’ll open the market but they should.”