Every farmer’s ultimate dream is to make as much money as he/she can from the crops he/she grows. Farming is a serious business, just like any other business out there. It is therefore important for farmers to know which crops are the most lucrative to grow to realize their dreams of attaining huge profits and be millionaires in the long run.
Zimbabwe is blessed with one of the best climates, not only in Sub-Saharan Africa but worldwide. This makes Zimbabwe ideal to grow a wide variety of crops. Farmers can maximize this good climatic advantage by choosing to grow cash crops that rake in a lot of foreign currency and are high in demand, not only locally but also regionally and internationally.
Cash crops are those plants that are specifically grown to sell for profit rather than for family consumption. Examples of these cash crops are hemp, tobacco, wheat, sugarcane, soya beans, and sunflower.
General information on growing hemp
Hemp is a variant of Marijuana (Mbanje/ Cannabis Sativa/ Hashish/ Dagga/ Ganja/ Chamba/ Weed). It is one of the top cash crops recently legalized to grow in Zimbabwe. The crop was illegal to grow, but now farmers can simply apply for the permit and start growing if allowed. The permit is valid for 5 years and the legislation requires farmers to apply for permit renewal after the expiry of the license tenure.
Hemp grows in a wide range of climates and soils. The crop is possible to grow in all 5 agricultural regions of Zimbabwe. One of the most lucrative properties of hemp is its resistance to plant pests and diseases. Unlike other cash crops which require a high capital injection to fight against pests and diseases, hemp requires minimal effort. It is possible to grow the plant all year round, using open fields or a greenhouse.
Economic benefits of hemp farming
Hemp is the most profitable cash crop to grow in Zimbabwe at the moment. Unlike other cash crops, which largely depend on local market price variations due to demand and supply relationships, hemp has a higher export demand because of the thousands of applications ranging from medical, industrial, and recreational uses. Hemp farmers harvest the whole of the plant, part after part, meaning no portion of the plant goes to waste, as with other crops. Hemp yield has the largest profit per hectare. Unlike the other cash crops measured and sold in much larger units such as tonnes, the yield of hemp is measured and sold in kilograms, pounds, ounces, grams, and points. The price of hemp ranges from US$600 to US$3000 per kilogram in Zimbabwe. The export market, however, varies significantly depending on the region and ranges between US$1000 to US$70000 per kilogram. If a farmer finds a lucrative export market, there is no other crop as profitable as hemp in Zimbabwe.
General information on growing tobacco
There are 3 main types of tobacco that are normally grown in Zimbabwe and these are burley, oriental, and flue-cured. Burley tobacco thrives in areas that have high rainfall, for example, Vumba and Chimanimani in Zimbabwe’s agricultural region 1. Oriental tobacco is usually grown in region 2, for example, Harare South, and the flue-cured tobacco is grown in region 2 areas with high rainfall patterns for example Banket.
Tobacco farming requires a lot of capital to cater for expenses, such as the drip irrigation system, building barns to cure the tobacco, and also a robust pest and disease control system to maximize yields. It is a seasonal crop that does best during the summer, and planting should be from September to October.
Economic benefits of tobacco farming
Tobacco is famously known as the golden leaf, and this is primarily because of its great economic value. Tobacco is one of the biggest foreign currency earners in our country, just behind gold. According to the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, tobacco yields the most profit per hectare after hemp when compared to every other crop grown in the country. The producer price of tobacco per tonne is US$2260. The immense value of tobacco is therefore truly undeniable and farmers must definitely embark on growing the golden leaf. In addition, farmers must opt to sell their tobacco at the contract floors since they pay more in comparison to the auction floors.
General information on growing sugarcane
Sugarcane farming has been monopolized by the Triangle and Hippo Valley Estates in Chiredzi for years in Zimbabwe. Few farmers have entered the sugarcane production value chain, but it is definitely very rewarding to do so. Sugar cane can be planted during the summer for best results, but it can also be grown throughout the year.
It requires hot temperatures, lots of sunshine, and consistent rainfall or irrigation during its long growing season of ten months. Sugarcane can grow in all of Zimbabwe’s five agricultural regions and is relatively easy to grow the crop. In addition, sugarcane exhausts soil fertility since it has a long growing season, so it is important to apply fertilizers or organic manure continually.
Fungi cause the most common sugarcane diseases, for example, eyespot and red rot. These can be controlled by good agronomic practices, for example, growing more resistant varieties of the crop because fungicides have been proven to be ineffective.
Economic benefits of sugarcane farming
The sugarcane value chain is very broad, and that is one of the reasons why it is lucrative to grow. The sugarcane producer price is US$580 per tonne from the GMB which makes it one of the most profitable crops to grow in Zimbabwe. Sugarcane is primarily used to produce sugar. The by-products from sugarcane processing are used to produce molasses, ethanol, alcohol, paper, paper boards, and livestock feeds.
General information on growing wheat
Wheat is one of the most capital-intensive crops to grow, therefore, many farmers in Zimbabwe are afraid to delve into this venture. According to the Agricultural Marketing Authority (AMA), wheat is one of the most imported products in Zimbabwe, with hundreds of millions spent on it per annum. There is therefore an undeniable gap in wheat farming which farmers must explore.
Wheat is a seasonal crop that grows best under cool climates during the winter. Regions 1 and 2, for example, Nyanga and Beatrice are recommended for growing this crop. Wheat requires well-drained soils and must be planted between mid-April to May for optimum yields.
Early planting is critical in wheat farming so as to avoid pests and diseases, which increase as the temperature starts to rise in August. Furthermore, wheat requires consistent drip irrigation during the dry winter. Compound fertilizer, for example, compound C and Ammonium Nitrate top dressing are required for good yields. A robust pest control programme should be employed to maximize yields and control pests like quelea birds and aphids which usually attack wheat.
Economic benefits of wheat farming
Wheat is very important because it is used to make flour, which is essentially a staple food second to maize. Flour is used to make several food products such as bread, pasta, and cereals, which are consumed daily by many Zimbabweans. Wheat has a high producer price of US$500 per tonne from the GMB, therefore, it has great profit margins and is worth growing.
5. Soya beans (Soybean)
General information on growing soya beans
Soya beans is a very important cash crop because it arguably has the widest variety of uses compared to other cash crops. To attain a good yield of soybean, it is important to employ good agronomic practices, for example, using certified seed, regular weeding, good plant spacing, early planting, and proper management of pests and diseases.
Soybean requires warm weather for optimum growth and can be grown from regions 1 to 3 in Zimbabwe, for example, Chimanimani, Buhera, and Gweru. In addition, it is a seasonal crop that grows best during the summer, with recommended planting in November. Soybean requires soils with good drainage, and an outrageous amount of nutrients and organic matter.
It is important to note that soybean requires more fertilizer compared to grain crops, for example, maize. The most common pests and diseases that affect soybean are aphids, cutworms, and stink bugs. These can be controlled by spraying with Fenvelorate pesticide.
Economic benefits of soya bean farming
Soya beans can be processed into soybean oil, soya milk, flour, and chunks. In addition, the by-products of soybean processing can be used as a rich source of protein for animal stock feed. Soya bean crop residues can produce fodder for cattle and rich compost manure for gardening.
According to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), there is a very high demand for soybean in our country with 120 000 tonnes being required per year, yet native farmers only produce 50 000 tonnes. Venturing into soybean farming is therefore lucrative since the price per tonne is pegged at US$480 by the GMB.
General information on growing sunflower
Sunflowers are one of the cheapest/ cost-effective crops to grow in Zimbabwe. This is because they are drought tolerant and rarely attacked by pests and diseases. They require little fertilizer compared to other crops, for example, maize. Sunflowers can grow in any of Zimbabwe’s five agricultural regions. In addition, they are a seasonal crop that grows best in the summer, so it is highly encouraged to plant them from October to November.
Economic benefits of sunflower
Sunflowers are high in demand in Zimbabwe because of the valuable by-products that come from them. The most lucrative by-product of sunflower is sunflower cooking oil. In addition, sunflower by-products can also be used to produce livestock feed for cattle, pigs, and chickens. A tonne of sunflower seed cost at most US$300 which makes it worthwhile to grow.
Our country still imports over a hundred million worth of sunflower cooking oil from other countries every year. Therefore, there is an enormous gap that needs to be explored in sunflower farming. Farmers can increase their earnings from sunflower farming by employing value addition and beneficiation techniques, for example, producing their own refined cooking oil and stock feed, which they can then sell at higher prices.