North Carolina sweetpotato supplies are plentiful currently.
“We had excellent growing conditions throughout the year and did not experience harsh climates or natural disasters in our area during harvest,” says Rebecca Scott of Nashville, NC, Nash Produce, who notes that supplies are comparable to last year at this time. “We anticipated a larger supply due to the rising demand and have been adding additional controlled-temperature storage facilities to our campus each year. Construction started on our most recent facility a few weeks ago and is coming along right on schedule.”
Photo: Kate Lindquist
Nash Produce’s supplies come from Southeastern North Carolina, where the climate is well suited to grow sweetpotatoes. “The presence of sandy soil and hot, humid summer make for a sweeter sweetpotato. Consumers continue to show a peaked interest in North Carolina-grown sweetpotatoes due to their texture and flavor,” she adds.
Those favorable growing conditions have also led to a large quantity of all sizes of sweetpotatoes. “Most of the crop are US #1 sized potatoes, while we also have jumbos and smalls available to pack,” says Scott. She adds that regardless of sizing, all sweetpotatoes harvested are used either via the fresh market or are processed into chips, baby food or canned product.
While harvest was on schedule for 2021, growers finished up around Thanksgiving which is slightly sooner than when harvest finished up last year. “Our largest challenge this year was sourcing harvest labor due to the many hurdles associated with the pandemic,” says Scott.
Meanwhile while demand for sweetpotatoes continues to rise from all markets, demand is shifting. “While the retail sector is still seeing high movement with the presence of families cooking at home, it is beginning to get back to a “normal” level,” says Scott, who notes that helping demand along is the three and four-count try pack Nash Produce introduced last year. Nash also continues to look for alternative packaging to better service customer’s needs. “The foodservice sector has increased demand in sweetpotatoes over the past year due to the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine and the consumer’s level of comfort in going out to eat.”
Photo: Kate Lindquist
As for pricing, it’s lower than in previous months due to the ample supply. “Consumers are currently spending less per pound than in previous weeks and we anticipate seeing a heavier than usual volume being moved because of that,” adds Scott.