Healthy eating – what makes the cabbage special in homes and the market ?

Increasing consumer awareness about healthy eating is one of the reasons cabbage has gained a foothold in Zimbabwean farming areas, markets and households. Consumers from diverse income levels recently shared many reasons why cabbages are becoming popular as a raw ingredient in salads and cooked vegetables:

  • Cabbage has virtually no fat. One cup of shredded raw cabbage contains 50 calories and 5 grams of dietary fibre.
  • Cabbage can be steamed, boiled, braised, micro-waved, stuffed, or stir-fried, and eaten raw.
  • One cup of shredded raw cabbage contains 190% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
  • Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K. 1 cup (150 grams) of shredded, boiled cabbage contains 91% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin K.
  • Cabbage and its relatives (broccoli, cauliflower,) are rich sources of phyto-chemicals, naturally-occurring plant chemicals that may protect people against some forms of cancer such as colon, stomach, breast and prostatic cancers.
  • Cabbage juice has shown antibacterial properties.
  • Cabbage has also shown anti-inflammatory benefits.

As if the above is not enough, every serious farmer likes cabbage for its high-yielding merits, adaptation to a wide range of climates, low susceptibility to pests and diseases and demand for low chemical inputs compared to other commercial crops. While the cabbage comes in different colours such as green, purple and white, the white cabbage is more common in Zimbabwe. Some of the cabbage varieties that have grabbed the interest of farmers include: the Star range (3311, 3301, 3316 and 3317); Indica plus, Megaton and Fabiola, to name just a few.

Characteristics that make all these varieties attractive include: head size, leaf types, growth period, furnishness, head polishness and maturity periods. Star 3311 variety is most preferred because of its best furnish while Star 3316 has the second best furnish. Green Star 3301 has a good frame and can only be grown in winter. It is popularly known as the King of uniformity because it grows uniformly in the field unlike other varieties. Megaton has a similar furnish to Star 3311 but has the best head size referred to as the Jumbo size. The Coton variety is too leafy while Fabiola variety is smart and small, early maturing (60 days).

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Other important considerations for farmers include cost of production versus expected income.
Costing for Star Variety
Production Cost

  • ½ acre – 6000 seedlings @ $0.025 each
  • Total cost before marketing- $ 600.00
  • Total cost of production $960.00
  • Spacing – a spacing of 60cm*60cm is considered desirable when growing cabbages. Anything below this standard might lead to reduction of the head size of cabbages.

Expected Income Scenario

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Total Sales …………………………………………………………….$2 500.00
Production Costs ………………………………………………………$. 960.00
Labour Costs x 2 workers @ 60/month/worker x 2 months ……….. $ 240.00
Profit ……………………………………………………………………$1 300.00

The above profit is much more than can be obtained from many other commodities such as maize and cotton.

Cabbage supply in Mbare Agriculture Market: January – December 2014.
A total of 558425 cabbage heads were supplied from January to December 2014 compared to 581675 heads during the same period in 2013. Using a standard cabbage weight of approximately 2.5kg, 1396.06 metric tons of cabbages were supplied in 2014 and 1454.19 metric tons in 2013. The table below shows a breakdown of the quantities supplied (per head and per tonne) per month for the two years.

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As illustrated by the above table and chart, supply of cabbages was at peak in the month of August. August is known for Heroes and Defence Forces Day Holidays when many urban folks travel to rural homes with cabbage as one of their key grocery items. The same goes for festive periods in December.

Cabbage heads supplied per produce source

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Mashonaland West districts – Mhondoro and Beatrice – were the dominant sources of cabbages. In Mashonaland Central, Mazowe, Bindura and Shamva districts were major sources while Murewa and Goromonzi districts represented Mashonaland East province. Far flung areas like Honde Valley, Mt Darwin and Beitbridge also had a significant showing on the market. The top five sources were: Mhondoro, Beatrice, Mazowe, Harare and Norton. Harare volumes are driven by expansion in urban and peri-urban farming.

Cabbage prices per head

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The average price per head for 2014 was 67c while in 2013 it was 45c. Low and stable prices in 2013 were due to consistent over- supply. For instance, farmers in Bubi district and other areas were reported to have fed cabbages to cattle due to gluts caused by uncoordinated production and lack of market intelligence.

Wholesale Market Cabbage Traders Sample Case
Eighty percent (80%) of cabbages supplied to Mbare Agriculture Market go directly into the Wholesale Market where bulk buying and selling is the order of the day. A sample of 3 traders with marketing stalls in Mbare Wholesale Market were tracked for the month of December to find out their business purchase capacity at a given period. A total of 120 tonnes were purchased by the three business entities generating $72 000.00 for farmers from Bindura, Mazowe and Nyanga.

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More advantages related to cabbage

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According to some consumers, cost versus quantity makes the cabbage more important at gatherings like funerals, church meetings and mass weddings. Very few foods meet half of cabbage’s following attributes:

1. Can be eaten raw.
2. Shorter cooking time than leafy vegetables (can cook within a minute) thus saving energy.
3. A cabbage bought for 50c can be cooked for many days than a bundle leafy vegetables bought for $4.
4. Less perishable and can be stored under room temperature.
5. Doesn’t discolor quickly.
6. A favourite of other agriculture related enterprises like piggery, poultry and rabbit keeping where cabbage leaves can be used to supplement feed.
7. Cabbage blends well with other vegetable like carrots, tomatoes and green beans.
8. Can be converted into dried vegetables (Mufushwa) together with tomatoes, chilli pepper and other additions.
9. Handling and transportation is easier – it can be literary thrown around while packing into trucks or lorries.
10. Its natural flavour allows consumption without adding salt.

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