Tips for vegetable production enterprises
Vegetable production in particular offers opportunities for sustainable income generation and job creation.
Pualina Mubiana, the Namibian Agronomic Board’s horticulture market development officer, says many producers in Namibia have therefore started to diversify their farming production by venturing into vegetable enterprises.
"Unfortunately, some start-up vegetable producers fail to remain in business due to factors that include insufficient skills, limited resources, and a poor understanding of the vegetable market and trends."
Conduct market research
Mubiana says it is crucial for producers to establish that there is a demand for the vegetables they choose to produce before they begin planting.
It is therefore recommended to conduct thorough market research to ensure that only vegetables that are in demand are produced to ensure higher returns.
She says that as part of market research, producers should consider which types of vegetables and cultivars to grow and why, the quantity to produce, when to produce the vegetable, who the targeted customers are, and establish market trends in terms of supply and demand.
"It is crucial for producers to address these questions before starting a vegetable enterprise so that they can understand the market and not after they have planted."
Mubiana also notes that water is a crucial resource for sustainable vegetable production.
She says that before deciding on what and how much to produce, producers must identify the water source and analyse its capacity and reliability.
"This will assist the producer in determining if the water source is sufficient enough to supply the required amount of water per specific vegetable as per the targeted area size."
According to Mubiana, land is another primary factor in sustainable vegetable production.
She says that the size of the land and the type of soil determine the types of crops that are suitable for growing in that particular area and the quantity that can be produced on that particular size of land.
"Producers are therefore encouraged to conduct a soil analysis to verify the vegetable growth suitability and ascertain the required soil nutrients for vegetable enterprises identified during the market research stage."
Mubiana says that producers need to have access to necessary and sufficient inputs for vegetable production.
Therefore, they should consider the cost needed to establish the crop. This includes the cost of seeds, land preparation, fertiliser, pesticides, packaging material, transport of produce to the market and labour costs, among others.
She encourages producers to take into account that only the right quantity of the lacking nutrients needs to be applied to a crop to ensure quality, and that quality seeds that are resistant to diseases must be used as opposed to low-quality seeds to gain a better yield.
"Implement good agricultural practices to be able to grow high-quality products by adopting correct crop rotation schedules and effective pest and disease management practices," she advises.
Mubiana says that vegetable producers also need to maintain proper records of all operational activities of the enterprise.
She says that farm records assist a producer in effectively planning for future production.
In addition, the maintenance of updated records enables producers to identify which crops generate more income than others.