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North Carolina sweet potato crop to be down 20 percent

freshplaza 2018-08-08 17:56:07

North Carolina sweet potato crop to be down 20 percent

The North Carolina sweet potato crop is expected to start later and be lighter this year due to cooler spring weather and a dry start to summer which has affected yields. Moreover, less sweet potatoes have gone into the ground this year as some growers were put off by lower prices last year.

"We started planting our sweet potatoes in early June and finished at the start of July which is about three weeks later than normal," said Annette Starling of Millstream Farms. "This was caused by the cooler spring weather. It was also very dry in the early part of July which has been hard on the crop. Predictions are that the North Carolina crop will be off as much as 20 percent this year. This year also saw a 10 percent reduction in acreage planted due to the lower prices last year."

Inventory being stretched out

There are only a few varieties remaining from last year's crop, many of which are the major varieties like Covington. Suppliers are managing their inventories carefully in order to maintain sufficient supply because of the expected later harvest start date. Because of the forecast drop in supply, prices are expected to be higher this year.

"Out of all the storage crops, Covington is the one that makes up the majority, however there is not a great deal remaining," Starling noted. "Specialty sweet potatoes like Murasaki are practically exhausted. This year growers will need to stretch out their inventory as we don't expect to start digging the new crop until September rather than August which is the typical start date. There is still demand despite the abundance of other fruits and vegetables which are available during the summer. Because of a growing demand there is less sweet potato inventory remaining this year than there was last year at this time, despite North Carolina having one of the biggest crops ever in 2017."

Starling also noted that demand in Europe remains steady. Other important growing regions for European supply are having mixed results, with Egypt having a decent crop, while Spain has not started yet. "We are in the process of figuring out cover the demand as there is still some demand from Europe," she said. "Egyptian supply is there, however the Spain crop hasn't come in yet."

North Carolina State University developing more purple varieties

With the purple sweet potatoes attracting increasing demand, North Carolina growers are planting more of them. What is being planted is not enough to meet demand however, and more purple varieties are currently in development by North Carolina State University. 

"Millstream Farms has planted twice as much acreage of Murasaki sweet potatoes," Starling shared. "Overall acreage is still small when compared with Covington for example, however the growth is there. There are also purple-fleshed sweet potatoes such as the Purple Stokes. However this is a proprietary variety and growers are required to purchase a license to grow them. In answer to this and to address the growing demand for purple sweet potatoes, North Carolina State University are developing other purple sweet potatoes in order to provide more growing opportunities."

For more information:

Annette Starling

Millstream Farms

Tel: +1 (910) 567-6745

Publication date: 8/8/2018
Author: Dennis M. Rettke