"Farmers in Hainan expanded the overall surface area devoted to sweet potato plantation last year. Furthermore, the overall production volume per hectare increased. Last year was therefore a great year for sweet potatoes in Hainan. Not only were the production conditions great, but market conditions were great as well. This year, however, farmers expected the market to worsen and so they reduced the overall surface area devoted to sweet potato plantation. Some farmers even delayed the harvest." This is according to Kang Kang, a spokesperson for Hainan Yu Tian Agriculture Co., Ltd.
"Hainan has a long history of sweet potato plantation. The sweet potato was first introduced to the island in the late Ming [1368-1644] and early Qing [1644-1911] dynasties. That is more than 300 years of history. Hainan has a typical tropical, oceanic climate. The island receives an average of more than 2 thousand hours of sun per year, which is more than enough solar power to stimulate the growth of sweet potatoes all year long. The average rainfall measures 1,664 mm per year and the moist air helps to nourish the sweet potato plants. The average temperature is around 26 degrees Celsius, which makes the island suitable for year-round sweet potato plantation. Not only is the natural environment extremely suitable for sweet potato plantation, but the island has two coastlines with a total length of 1,823 km and the sea deposits large volumes of salt along the coast. The salty sand contains copious trace amounts of nutrients and minerals, which is beneficial for sweet potato plantation. Furthermore, the temperature difference between day and night is quite big, which further helps the accumulation of sugars in sweet potatoes. All of these elements combine to create unique conditions for sweet potatoes in Hainan," explained Kang Kang. "This is why the sweet potatoes from Hainan have a unique flavor."
"Hainan farmers can grow sweet potatoes outside in every season of the year. The temperature difference between day and night, as well as the nutrient-rich sands blown in by the wind from the sea, both shape the unique flavor of sweet potatoes. Not only is the flavor unique, but the sweet potatoes are produced during the off-season when most sweet potato production areas in China are idle. Farmers in Hainan can plant potatoes in November and start harvesting in February. The peak of the harvest period is in April and May. This is the time when sweet potato production areas in China are recovering from the winter and market competition is therefore absent. This gives the sweet potato industry in Hainan a definite market advantage."
When asked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Chinese sweet potato market, Kang Kang replied: "We normall begin harvesting sweet potatoes in February because some of the sweet potato varieties enter the market quite early. We therefore suffered heavily from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our farms are located in the east of Hainan Island. The planting season and the harvest season both began relatively late. The sweet potatoes only entered the market in early March when the market was already recovering from the pandemic. We were therefore lucky to escape the impact of the pandemic on the distribution of our sweet potatoes," said Kang Kang.
"Sweet potatoes are a staple food and the market price is always quite stable. The current price is around 4.5 yuan [0.64 USD] per 0.5 kg in production areas. The market price in Shanghai is around 13 yuan [1.84 USD] per 0.5 kg, which is slightly higher than around this time last year."
Kang Kang also talked about the benefits of product branding: "We guarantee product flavor by keeping our sweet potatoes in the ground for at least 140 days. This gives sweet potatoes enough time to accumulate sugar and starch before they are harvested and sold on the market. In addition, we process our sweet potatoes twice to select top-quality potatoes and eliminate sub-standard products. We only supply the market with top-quality potatoes that meet industry standards. Standardizing the sweet potato industry is one of the biggest challenges at the moment. I believe that the industry can only improve if we focus on higher-grade sweet potatoes."
For more information:
Hainan Yutian Agriculture Co., Ltd.
Tel.: +86 13976861217