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US(NC): Average sweet potato supplies despite increased acreage

This year, sweet potato acreage in North Carolina was up significantly, driven by high demand in combination with the fact that other cash crops weren’t showing the returns that the growers were hoping for. “Despite an increase in harvested area, supplies are average this season,” says Kelley Precythe with Southern Produce. “North Carolina went from an extreme dry summer into a very wet fall. Once it started raining, it just didn’t stop and as a result, yields are off this year.”

For most companies, the rainfall came at a really bad timing, exactly during harvest. Sweet potato harvest roughly runs from September 1 until November 1. Southern Produce was lucky to be able to start its harvest early and was done before it got really wet in the fields. “Rainfall during harvest can potentially affect quality,” mentioned Precythe. “It is a matter of getting the crop into storage, drying the potatoes out and pack them as soon as they are cured.” 



Domestic pricing better than export pricing
November is the busiest month of the year for Southern Produce. “Demand is high for the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Precythe. Christmas and Easter are two busy periods as well. Although the domestic market is the main focus for Southern Produce, the company also exports about 25 percent of its product to Europe. “Today, we receive a better price in the domestic market, but we want to continue to satisfy our overseas customer base.” 

Precythe expects export prices to increase after the New Year holiday as other producing nations such as Spain, Egypt and Honduras are finishing up their crops. “We have year-round supplies, but they don’t,” he added. In the domestic market, supplies are likely to tighten up after Easter.



Organic packaging for domestic market
For its domestic customer base, Southern Produce launched an organic sweet potato program this year. The organic product is labeled and offered in a 3 lb. bag as well as a 40 lb. carton. Precythe is very content about the positive response he has received from retailers on the new product.

For more information:
Kelley Precythe
Southern Produce
Tel: (+1) 910-267-0011

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