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Cash Crop Farming: Meaning, Advantages, and Disadvantages

Cash Crop Farming: Meaning, Advantages, and Disadvantages

In cash crop farming, crops are grown for the purpose of sale or to earn profits. This Gardenerdy article gives you an understanding of this type of farming, along with its advantages and disadvantages.
Praseeda Shirodkar
Did You Know?
In 1973, American inventor, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin that contributed a great deal to the success of cotton as a cash crop.
What is Cash Crop Farming?
Cash crop farming refers to a type of farming where agricultural crops are grown for the purpose of sale or to make profits, instead of subsistence or barter. It is also called commercial farming or cash cropping.

In simpler words, cash crop farming is done by farmers to earn money in return for sustenance or to meet the family's requirements. Also, an additional profit would be required for the next crop-related activity. That is, farmers have to borrow money from banks to purchase seeds for planting. Then, depending on the rise in market prices, they sell the harvested crops. In this way, they are able to repay their loans only after the sale of their crops.
The farming techniques used vary with each farmer as well as from one country to another. That is, traditional farmers in developing countries employ farming techniques that they are accustomed to. In the more developed countries, intensive cultivation and mechanized farming techniques are commonly used.
It has been observed that in the earlier times, cash crops were a small but critical part of the total production of a farm. Now, mostly in developed countries, the purpose of growing cash crops is earning revenue.
Furthermore, the price of cash crops depends on the supply and demand in more developed countries, the least developed countries being the suppliers.
Cash crop costs are majorly determined by the commodity markets with a global scope. However, there would be some fluctuations depending on the freight prices and local demand and supply.
The climate is a factor that decides the growth of cash crops. That is, the growth of cereals, fruit trees, and potatoes is supported by temperate climatic conditions, whereas rice, soybean, etc., come from a subtropical climate and sugarcane, cocoa, etc., from a tropical climate.
Cash crop farming is considered as an accurate method that has proven to raise affordable food in high quantities.

It is profitable to the farmers and serves as a source of their sustenance.

It gives employment where cash crops can be processed and promotes economic diversification.

It earns revenue for the government.
Monocropping or sole cropping is followed, wherein a single crop is grown each year on the same land. Due to this, there may be limited production of certain food crops.

Moreover, the continuous use of monocropping has been linked to soil degradation or decline in the soil quality, which further leads to the growth of pests and disease-causing pathogens. The outcome of this could also be mass starvation caused due to the extensive destruction of a particular crop.

Cash crop farming may prove beneficial only to those farmers who have food security and access to other necessary inputs and income, whereas small farmers may face constraints.
Examples of Cash Crops
Wheat, rye, corn, oats, barley, rapeseed, mustard, potatoes, rice, millet, apples, oranges, cherries, coffee, cotton, strawberries, raspberries, soy beans, tea, etc., are some common examples of cash crops.

A well-known global cash crop is coconut and it is grown in over 80 countries having a climate suitable for its growth. Coconut and its derivatives are widely used in cooking, and in making soaps and cosmetics.

Jatropha curcas is an example of a cash crop. It is used for the production of biofuel.

Black market cash crops like coca, cannabis, and opium poppies are also produced.
Cash Crop Farming Vs. Subsistence Farming
Subsistence farming differs from cash crop farming as cash crops are grown mainly for direct selling and profit-making. In subsistence farming, just enough crops are grown by the farmers for consumption by them and their families, thus, providing them with the basic needs.

Cash crop farming usually involves monocropping (growing a single crop), while subsistence farming involves the multiple cropping or mixed cropping practice.

Cash crop farming is quite common in developed countries whereas subsistence farming is relatively less common.

In cash crop farming, planning and management need to be done carefully and with skill, so that there is high production at a price that is affordable to the customers as well as pays for production and helps generate profits. This is not the case with subsistence farming.
Thus, we see that subsistence farming and cash crop farming differ in the basic purpose with which they are practiced. While the former is meant to serve the farmers, their families, and livestock, the latter is meant to earn profits. Promoting the growth of cash crops can help boost the economy, but it does discourage growing crops meant for domestic consumption. Cash crop farming is beneficial for those who have large farms and can afford expensive equipment and fertilizers. However, it is not helpful for farmers with small plots.