There are too many sweet potatoes.
So says Kristi Hocutt of Triple J Produce in Sims, North Carolina, who notes that there are especially too many sweet potatoes in North Carolina. “It’s a night and day difference from last year at this time. When you go from the acreage in 2020 to the acreage in 2021, it increased by 20,000 or more acres,” she says.
Other growing regions for sweet potatoes are Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. Hocutt also notes that African exports of sweet potatoes are strong this year which also affects exporting opportunities for North Carolina.
As for demand? She wishes it was stronger, though it does look similar to this time last year. “You’re just trying to move them at a decent price but the price isn’t good,” Hocutt says.
Pricing to move
She notes that pricing was stronger at the beginning of the season for sweet potatoes but then at peak demand time, the holiday season, pricing was discounted. “That price was already a little lower than last year and it hasn't crept up much from holiday pricing,” Hocutt says. “And then growing costs have all gone up--they’ve doubled and tripled in some aspects--and labor costs have increased again this season.”
In turn, she believes the pricing will hold or soften even more from here on in. “Especially since growers are planting now and have to make room for the new crop."
So what does this mean for the planting season for the 2022-2023 crop? “We’re trimming back acreage and all of our growers are trimming back acreage too in hopes that will bring the price up,” says Hocutt. “It’s got to or you’re going to have a lot of people go bankrupt or sell or stop growing.”