North Carolina sweet potato growers are reporting slow growing conditions as hot and dry weather persists in the region. Fewer potatoes have been harvested than is usually the case at this time of year, with growers beginning to be concerned about how the end of the harvest will look like. There is the chance that the crop could come up short if all the sweet potatoes are not harvested by the first freeze.
"It continues to be hot and dry in North Carolina," noted Norman Brown of Wada Farms Marketing Group. "At this stage, growers have only harvested 40 - 50 percent of their crop when typically they would be up to around 70 percent by now. Some days they are not able to harvest and when they do, it's only for half a day."
Brown explained that with the lack of moisture, the sweet potatoes are not sizing up as quickly as they should, forcing growers to leave them in the ground longer. Unfortunately, the forecast suggests that this situation will continue for the short term. "There is no rain in the forecast, so we are expecting that there will be no change," he said.
Supplies getting tight
With volume not coming through, the market is beginning to tighten up. Prices are creeping higher and are currently sitting almost 50 percent higher than they usually are by mid October. As mentioned, suppliers are now looking ahead as to how the harvest will end.
"The market is tight and expensive, with prices hovering between $20 - $23, when they are generally around $15 or $16 in normal years," Brown observed. "There has not been much product sold so we are a bit concerned as to how things will progress for the next month. Usually, the harvest finishes in the second week of November - before the first freeze. However, we still have a long way to go."
All kinds of packaging
Wada Farms Marketing offers multiple different packaging styles for its sweet potato range. The company mainly focuses on the Covington variety - particularly in North Carolina.
"We have a variety of different packaging available," Brown shared. "This included the 18kg bins, and we also offer bags, steamers and microwaveable packs. There are a number of different options for retailers and we also cater to the increasingly popular ready-to-cook segment."