The longer the sweet potato storage season progresses, the more clear it will become as to how much product will remain until the new crop starts again later this year. One determining factor is the distance growers are from where extreme rainfall from Hurricane Florence fell last year, with some growers confident their supplies will last the entire season.
"Supplies really depend on the location within North Carolina," explained Joshua Wright of Ham Farms in Snow Hill. "Ham Farms is located further inland so we were not as affected as perhaps some other growers closer to the coast. All our varieties are in good supply and we should have availability crop to crop."
But it's not just the rainfall from the hurricane that had an impact on sweet potato supplies. "Overall, it's going to be a tight season," Wright added. "It was a very dry summer in North Carolina followed by the excessive rainfall from the hurricane. The weather was not favorable in other states such as Louisiana and Mississippi either. Therefore, yields and acreage were down across the board."
Strong prices all season
The supply pressure has caused the market to be strong all season, unlike last year. According to Wright, much of the gains have been on the domestic market. The export market has also been good, however it has not had quite the same level of strength as the domestic market has.
"The market domestically is correcting itself this year after last year's low prices," Wright said. "This year, we are seeing much higher prices. Pricing for overseas markets has gone up too, but the correlation with the domestic market has not matched. Prices are expected to increase more on the overseas market to match what is happening on the domestic market."
"It's certainly been an interesting year as we have never seen such conditions before," he continued. "It has been a total flip on what happened the previous year when there were too many potatoes and prices were low."
Fruit Logistica attendance: Europe a key market
Next month, Ham Farms will be attending Fruit Logistica in Berlin. The company enjoys a good level of trade in Europe and sees it as a key market. "We will be at Fruit Logistica next month," Wright shared. "Around a third of our business is in the export market and this is an area where we expect to see continued growth." Visit Ham Farms in Hall 23, booth A-10.
As well as attending Fruit Logistica, Ham Farms also continues to work on their organics category as well as its packaging options. "We have had a strong push for our organic sweet potatoes under the Prime Organic brand," Wright concluded. "These are available both in bulk and in bags. We have the packing ability to cater to our customer's needs and we always try to stay ahead of the pack."