Garlic Smells like Success

Senwes Scenario visited Senwes client Pieter Maree on his farm, burrowed between Klerksdorp and Ventersdorp. Maree, who has been steadily building up his garlic production over the past four years, took us on a tour of his garlic fields to demonstrate the process of farming this aromatic plant and the profit potential thereof. Widely adored for its sharp aroma, garlic is used mainly as flavouring and seasoning for cooked dishes and stews. Additionally, old-wives-tales attribute some medicinal properties to garlic, claiming that it heals anything from a common cold to inflammation. With this much versatility, this bulb crop is bound to fare very well in the South African market.

The majority of South African grown garlic is sold to the fresh produce market. Processed products such as garlic spreads, chopped garlic and bottled garlic in different forms are also sold, but to a lesser extent.

Maree explains that like pecan nut and date farming, garlic farming requires lots of patience as it has taken him four years to build up his production to the point of reasonable profit. Maree advises that when planting garlic, it is smarter to “start small and build the seed up.” Meaning do not rush to fill a large portion of land with garlic. It is better to plant a few at a time and watch it grow gradually.

Garlic thrives well in warm temperatures. Long, sunny days encourage bulb formation, especially during the growing season. It is said that the perfect time to begin planting garlic would be between February and May. Be sure to plant in well-drained, fertile soil with high organic matter that is well-tilled before planting to provide a loose growing bed for bulb development. The soil determines how much water and fertiliser are needed, but on average, garlic can be successfully grown using drip irrigation or a sprinkler system. You will know when it is ready for harvest when the leaf tops begin to dry and lose their thickness. Garlic is handpicked and hung to dry completely before being packaged and sold.

At the moment, the South African garlic market is still relatively small, but growing fast. The price is currently at approximately R53 per ton.