The market for sweet potatoes is currently very strained. “Throughout the season, people have been speculating about shortages because of the hurricane and the persistent rain, but although this could’ve been a sales technique of growers and exporters in other circumstances, the time has now come that growers really can’t supply anymore,” says Christiaan van der Goes of GreenGoose.
The shortages on the market are naturally leading to high prices. “Price levels are now around 9.50 to 10 euro for 6 kilos. That hasn’t happened in recent years, and prices are now even higher than seven or eight years ago, when sweet potatoes were still very much a niche market in Europe,” the importer says. Yet according to him, the high prices aren’t curbing sales. “The volume that is available is quickly sold because so few sweet potatoes are available. Fortunately, the supply has good quality. The advantage is that the market remains clean, and no old stock will be created.”
Besides, hardly any alternatives to the North American sweet potatoes are available. “Egypt usually arrives on the market early in July, but the first arrivals are now expected in Europe late July or early August. Supply is also minimal from countries like Guatemala and Honduras. A lot of people have tried importing sweet potatoes from China, but that trade isn’t taking off either, in part because quality can’t be guaranteed due to the long transport time. However, we have noticed Spain manages to extend its season more and more, the Spanish sweet potatoes were even on the market until April this year.”
“All in all, the coming two-and-a-half months we’ll experience an enormous scarcity on the sweet potato market. Sales are traditionally a bit lower in summer anyway, but despite that, the market will still be tense,” expects Christiaan, who receives six to eight containers of sweet potatoes from North America every week. Additionally, he also imports white and purple-fleshed sweet potatoes from South Africa. “That’s still very much a niche market, and normally that trade is difficult because of the high prices, but now that the price difference with the orange-fleshed sweet potato is limited, supermarkets show quite a bit of interest in this as well!”