Domestic supplies of sweet potatoes are average right now.
“This is different from last year. Last year there was a big crop because everything lined up just right. We had rain at the right time for example,” says Chase Rimmer of Bruce Sweet Potato in Bruce, MS. “But this year, we’re back to normal now.” While Mississippi’s crop is on average, Rimmer does note that the second half of the crop has brought on larger sweet potatoes in the region.
What could be the tipping point on domestic supply this year is the effect that Hurricane Florence had on the Carolinas in mid-September. “The Carolinas are obviously very short on sweet potatoes now and I don’t know how that’s going to affect the market yet,” he says, adding that what’s unknown for now is how much potato the Carolinas will send to Europe versus keeping for domestic supply. “I’ve heard a lot of them are leaning towards staying domestic than going overseas. But either way, that’s the key factor here.”
Demand still up
More domestic supply would continue to fuel the domestic demand which Rimmer says is still holding strong. “There’s no decline that we’ve seen so far in demand—I’d say it’s probably even growing a little,” he says.
Along with bulk supplies, the sweet potato industry still trends towards developing value-added products. “The trend has been towards things like microwaveables and steamers, fries and things like that,” says Rimmer. “The newer thing is sweet potato juices.”
And with supplies coming back down to average in volume, it’s made for slightly higher 2018 pricing. “I’d say pricing is back on track this season,” says Rimmer, noting that prices are up slightly between 10-15 percent.