Chillies and peppers – get in while it’s hot

With a spike in the demand  for healthy, natural ways to spice up meals, the market for chillies and peppers is expected to keep growing around the world. Which is all the more reason why you can consider growing them on a small or large scale.

According to Trade Map, global imports of chillies have increased from US$3.42 billion in 2018 to US$3.78 billion in 2020, with all indicators that this incline will continue. The pepper market looks equally promising. South Africa alone shipped 4 579 986 tonnes of capsicum (bell pepper) in 2019, achieving growth of a whopping 423.69% in exports between 2017 and 2019!

These hot cultivars also love hot weather, which makes the South African climate perfect for growing them. Eric Mauwane, commercial veggie farmer and MD of Oneo Farmers just outside Brits, confirms that it is indeed viable to farm with chillies and peppers, but he cautions that it is not as easy as a lot of people think. 

“There seems to be this general perception that chillies and peppers are easy to grow, but they are actually quite complex crops,” he says. Eric advises those who are keen to tap into the chilli and pepper market, or any other crops for that matter, to first volunteer to work on other farms, so they can see how it is done in practice.

By working on an actual farm with a farmer who knows their stuff, you can minimise the risk of making costly mistakes. Once you’re ready to start your own farming operations, Eric also believes it is critical to have a mentor who has more knowledge and experience than you have, with whom you can speak on an ongoing basis.

Most importantly, he says, you need to partner with the right people with whom to walk the road, day by day. One of the partners who has played a critical role in Eric’s farming journey is Laeveld Agrochem, specifically the Laeveld Agrochem depot in Brits. 

Chillies and peppers are quite prone to pests and diseases, but with the help of Laeveld Agrochem’s agronomists, Eric has been able to get these under control. He explains that two of the most critical issues were aphids and white flies, both of which suck the sap out of the plants, causing extensive damage in the process. 

Eric says that Anna van der Merwe from Laeveld Agrochem in Brits visited his farm personally (and continues to do so regularly) to closely inspect the crops. Based on her inspection, she recommended Closer from Corteva, which eliminated the pests. Closer is ideal for controlling those stubborn pests that are typically resistant to other insecticides.

She also made recommendations to get rid of the mildew in his crops. Mildew is a greyish-white powdery growth that develops on young plants, which stunts and eventually shrivels the leaves. This is a fairly common problem in areas that are either warm and dry or warm and humid. 

From humble beginnings as a pig farmer to becoming a successful commercial vegetable farmer who supplies to Joburg Market and exports to the likes of Germany and Netherlands, Eric has had a remarkable journey that others can certainly learn from. So, let’s recap the wisdom he imparts to other emerging farmers:

  1. Volunteer to work on other farms first, so you can gain practical insights through first-hand experience.
  2. Find a mentor you can regularly talk to, so you can benefit from everything that they’ve already learnt by trial and error.
  3. Work with partners, such as Laeveld Agrochem, who bring highly specialised technical expertise to the table.

Laeveld Agrochem has depots across the country, with agronomists or farming specialists who do not hesitate to roll up their sleeves and work side-by-side with our farmers to help them get the most out of their crops. Go to www.laeveld.co.za to find out how Laeveld Agrochem can help you grow your own veggie garden from home, become a small-scale farmer with the land you have, or expand your current farming operations.