North Carolina has begun its sweet potato harvest. The last two weeks have seen growers harvesting test fields with some beginning their main harvest a week ago. Growing conditions have given reason for optimism and reports are that the early potatoes are looking good.
"We are right at the beginning of harvest," said Jeff Thomas of Scott Farms. "At this early stage, things are looking good. It was hot and dry for a while, but we also had some decent periods of rain in recent weeks. Sizing on the early potatoes looks good and the potatoes themselves are exhibiting excellent quality and consistency."
New crop market begins well
There amount of storage crop remaining in the state is negligible, and retailers are eager to make a start on the new crop. During this transition phase, the market is in a strong position. However, growers say it's too early to tell what the season will bring, both in terms of volume and also pricing. Last year's crop was devastated by two hurricanes that passed over North Carolina, impacting on the storage crop.
"There is very little storage crop left in North Carolina, with perhaps only a few scattered lots remaining," Thomas observed. "For the most part, we are on to the new crop. We are seeing a good market early on, and our focus is on delivering the new crop to customers."
Demand for steam bags and microwavables growing
The primary variety out of North Carolina is still the Covington, although companies like Scott Farms also grow a few other traditional varieties. "Covington makes up the vast majority because they taste good and ship well," Thomas shared. "We also grow some other specialty varieties such as Murasaki, and these are starting to gain some momentum in the market."
Along with loose fresh sweet potatoes, he said that Scott Farms has also seen considerable growth in value added products, like steam bags and microwavable sweet potatoes. "We has seen positive growth in these products as consumers continue to seek out convenience items and purchase more."