Sweet potatoes a growing niche in Europe

Increased competition from suppliers in countries with lower growing costs has led to lower prices for sweet potato suppliers from the United States. Though the market for US sweet potatoes in Europe has grown throughout the last decade, they still remain a niche product there.

“Prices are not where we'd like to see them for the international market,” said Southern Produce Distributors' Kelley Precythe. “Honduras, Egypt and Spain just started their crops, so the volumes we're shipping internationally will fall off a bit because of that.” Part of the reason for the drop is the additional product on the market, but some of it is also due to the lower costs that growers in Honduras have to contend with and which allows them to offer lower prices for their sweet potatoes.

“It's hard to compete with Honduran prices,” said Precythe. “But then again, they don't have the uniformed pack varieties we have, so it's hard for them to compete with us in that respect.” He added that this is usually the time of year when volumes typically start to come down, as the peak-volume months come in January and February. The only thing that's different is that prices have been lower than expected.

Southern Produce was the first US supplier to export sweet potatoes to Europe, and Precythe noted that the growth of the product has been very good in the 15 years since they started shipping produce there. But they're still working hard to make the sweet potato in Europe as prominent a product as it is in the US. With consumers aware of the health benefits of the product and with added activity from the processing sector, domestic sales have been steadily rising over the years. That's also been the case for international sales, but those haven't been anywhere near the sales done in the US. Precythe wants to change that.

“In Europe, sweet potatoes are still considered an exotic item,” he said. “We want to educate Europeans on the health benefits of sweet potatoes and we want to show them the different ways they can prepare them; once you do that, people start buying them.”

For more information:
Kelley Precythe
Southern Produce Distributors, Inc.
Tel: +1 (910) 267-0011
Fax: +1 (910) 267-1455

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