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Simon Hobbs - Scott Farms International

UK: Mixed demand and increasing prices for US sweet potatoes

The availability of American sweet potatoes on the UK market is good at the moment, but prices are steadily increasing.

“The US domestic market is strong, and the Canadian market is in good shape,” explains Simon Hobbs, Commercial Director at Scott Farms International. “International sales are also picking up as the Spanish and Egyptian seasons come to an end and the only real availability is from the US.”

The demand in the UK is mixed with large sizes which would go for processing slowing down as the processors cut their orders back, while demand for small and medium sizes is extremely high as they go mainly for retail. Medium sizes L1s and L2s for the retail market are good but the wholesale market sales are down as there is no movement into the catering and small restaurant businesses.

“There are companies who have diversified to do veg boxes and recipe boxes, which is great, but sweet potatoes are not something which would go into these boxes on a regular basis because the the price against normal potatoes is much higher.”

The US grows a few varieties but only two are exported over the Atlantic, Covington and Beauregard. It is only the orange flesh Covington variety which will be available from now until the end of the US season.

Since 1st of January and the completion of the Brexit deal there is no longer a tariff on imports of US sweet potatoes into the UK, it was previously 25%, now it back to 3%.

“Imports into Europe still incur the 25% duty, so duty still has to be paid on any US sweet potatoes being exported to the EU from the UK. These must also be accompanied by phytosanitary certificates which slows the whole process down. You used to be able to load a lorry on day one and it arrived in Holland day two, now you load day one for day 3/4 delivery as the customs paperwork is holding everything up, this the same across the whole industry.”

For more information:
Simon Hobbs
Scott Farms International
T: +44 (0)1386 446648

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