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Difference Between Cash Crops and Food Crops

Farming remains a major economic activity practiced worldwide, providing sustainable economic growth and food security. The efforts that have put into farming have led to a wide range of crops, with different farming practices. Several measures have therefore been set to dictate how farming is done. Though cash crop farming and food crop farming involve the same crops, the intentions are very different.


What is Cash Crops?

Cash crops are crops grown with the intention of generating money. For instance coffee, tea, cocoa, wheat and cotton are common cash crops. Most cash crops can either be consumed directly or processed into other final products. 

Cash crops have been an integral part of strategies set to improve food security levels mostly in developing countries. This is through the generation of income by agricultural households. Cash crops not only offer employment opportunities in the communities but also help farmers in the generation of capital. In addition to this, cash crops largely contribute to the buildup of institutions that enable more commercialization.


What is Food Crops?

Food crops are plants mainly cultivated for human domestic consumption, whereby farmers grow just what is enough for their own personal needs. They mainly consist of tubers, legumes, fruits, vegetables cereals and fruits. In this kind of farming, planning decisions are mainly made based on a family’s needs.


Similarities Between Cash Crops and Food Crops

  • Both crops play a role in the transition towards sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Both cash crops and food crops are important for economic growth.
  • Both cash crops and food crops can either be sold locally or internationally.


Differences Between Cash Crops and Food Crops


The major purpose of cash crops is to generate profit while that of food crops is to mainly feed the farmers.

Market Type

Cash crops are mainly grown for the international market, mostly for direct consumption but are also grown as raw materials for the manufacturing industries.  Food crops on the other hand are grown for domestic consumption.

Method of Farming

A lot of emphasis is put in the farming of cash crops. Pesticides and fertilizers maybe used to increase output. As for food crops, the methods of farming may be different in the sense that a lot of effort is not geared to increase the yields.

Risks Involved

In cash crop farming, a lot of risks have to be taken into consideration such as soil degradation, quality of produce and price variability. Food crop farming however does not involve the levels of these risks and if involved they can easily sustain these risks. 

Crop Productivity

Emphasis on crop productivity in cash crops has been emphasized. This is to maximize on the yields which then improves the marketability. In food crops, crop productivity is also important but stringent measures have not been put to place to see this happen.


Policies have been put to place to safeguard cash crop farming, such as the pricing and quality of the food products. On the other hand, few policies have been set in food crop farming.

Start-up Capital

Cash crop farming requires a lot of capital to start. This is putting in to consideration of land, seeds, and fertilizers and farming equipment. This is however different for cash crop farming which would do well with a small piece of land and seeds. Farming equipment used for food crop farming is inexpensive and the use of fertilizers is uncommon.

Cash crops Vs. Food crops


Summary of Cash Crops Vs. Food Crops

Cash crops and food crops have enabled farmers to grow economically and reduced the dependence on government and international aid. With the challenges faced in farming, risks reducing strategies and adaptive techniques have been employed. Farmers have also diversified cropping techniques with an aim of coping with risks of harvest failures.

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1 Comment

  1. Hello sir,
    The article is very helpful to me, for the process of my studies.

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References :

[0]Fagchamps, M. Rural Poverty, Risk and Development. Edward Elgar Publishers, 2003. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=Sr2NxJBV-q8C&pg=PA162&dq=Difference+between+cash+crops+and+food+crops&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjrrrv4oo7eAhUMhRoKHdXkDSAQ6AEIMjAC#v=onepage&q=Difference%20between%20cash%20crops%20and%20food%20crops&f=false

[1]Sarris A., Hallam D. Agricultural Commodity Markets and Trade: New Approaches to Analyzing Market Structure and Instability. Edward Elgar Publishers, 2006. https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=wGa9lCwv_oIC&oi=fnd&pg=PA187&dq=differences+between+cash+crops+and+food+crops&ots=cKppFiHR8e&sig=tOQBC5k62mDhfUQwdwajNmVZdQE&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=differences%20between%20cash%20crops%20and%20food%20crops&f=false

[2]Christiaensen, L., Sarris A. Rural Household Vulnerability and Insurance against Commodity Risks: Evidence from the United Republic of Tanzania. Food & Agriculture Org Publishers, 2007. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=V8cbC5tdD_IC&pg=PA43&dq=differences+between+cash+crops+and+food+crops&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwimkfuNqJDeAhUGRBoKHZpACRk4ChDoAQhWMAk#v=onepage&q=differences%20between%20cash%20crops%20and%20food%20crops&f=false

[3]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3b/Flower_Farm%2C_Deerfield%2C_Massachusetts_-_panoramio_%282%29.jpg/640px-Flower_Farm%2C_Deerfield%2C_Massachusetts_-_panoramio_%282%29.jpg

[4]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/corn-field-food-crops-autumn-2708099/

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