Most sweetpotato growers in North Carolina are in the final days of their harvest. While the harvest started and ended a bit later than usual this year, the quality and sizing look to be on par with what customers have come to expect from the North Carolina industry.
Late planting and rainy fall weather
While this has been a very busy hurricane season for the southeastern region of the United States, the North Carolina sweetpotatoes have fortunately remained unharmed. “We are officially out of hurricane season now, and thankfully North Carolina did not suffer the damage that our neighbors to the South experienced” says CoCo Daughtry of the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission.
The state did see a lot of rainfall in the late fall, which made it so that the sweetpotato fields were too wet to harvest. “This pushed off work until the fields could dry out some, but we kept on farming and are nearly complete now,” Daughtry says. In addition to some harvest delays due to the weather, the crop was also planted later this year. “This was also due to weather and it took longer to get the crop in the ground,” says Daughtry, adding: “Overall, the later harvest this year allowed time for the crop to size up.”
Good demand in the market
Looking at overall availability of specific sizes, this year’s sweetpotato volume seems to be down, Daughtry shares. While volumes are down, the demand in the market has been high. “We are going into our sweetest of seasons with the holidays approaching and we anticipate that the high demand will continue over the next several months. Our shippers are working overtime to ensure that the markets have the supply needed to meet the demands of the holiday consumer,” Daughtry says.
The holiday season is an extra busy time for sweetpotatoes, but consumer demand has also risen due to the pandemic this year. “As consumers have continued to remain closer to home due to safety concerns, they are experimenting far more in their kitchens with new recipes – or at least new to them. We are excited to see all of the sweetpotato recipes emerging on social media as these budding home chefs proudly share their creations,” explains Daughtry.
In addition to cooking more at home and having the time to try out new recipes, the health benefits as well as their long shelf-life are also an important factor contributing to sweetpotato demand. “While we don’t have data that pinpoints specifically if the demand is affected by this, there is no question that sweetpotatoes are indeed a superfood and have excellent shelf-life if stored properly. Additionally, sweetpotatoes lend themselves to great flexibility in preparation and are an excellent source of nutrition for athletes, both pre- and post-training. These facts definitely can’t hurt our market growth opportunities,” Daughtry concludes.