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David Ortega, from Santo Boniato: “The market isn't ready to pay a high price for this product”

“Frozen sweet potato is an interesting line that we have been considering”

After having experienced a very rapid evolution in recent years, we can say that the sweet potato industry is currently in a readjustment process, stated David Ortega, of the Cadiz company Santo Boniato. “We decided to start producing sweet potato in 2019 with a small washing and calibration line,” David stated. “At that time prices were quite high and the product was in high demand in Europe. The following year, when the product boomed, we even doubled the planting. However, that was also when Egypt entered the scene.”

“With cheaper costs and laxer production conditions than ours, it began to introduce a large amount of sweet potato into the market, competing not only with Spain but with the entire European sector. Their product also entered the market before the production of southern Spain, the area that produces the largest amount of sweet potato in all of Europe, and at ridiculous prices,” David Ortega stated.

“Since then there has been an enormous readjustment throughout the sector; due to the brutal competition from Egypt, the increase in costs that could not be reflected in the price, and the market break that occurred in the pandemic. Right now the supply does not coincide with the demand and we see that the area sown has decreased a lot; also in Egypt, where it has been sown less due to the maritime freight rate issues caused by the war in Ukraine. Freight rates are returning to 2019-2020 levels, but the market is still not prepared to pay a high price for the product.”

Consumption has experienced a notable contraction, notes David, and despite the increase in costs, this retraction in demand is being reflected in prices. "The price of the first category product, of calibers L and XL, has stood at 85 to 90 cents in this campaign. Its average price last year ranged between 1.10 and 1.15 euro per kilo." On the other hand, fresh vegetable consumption has decreased by 30% in general while the consumption of frozen vegetables has increased, the owner of Santo Boniato highlighted.

Are there frozen sweet potato lines in Spain?
No facility in Spain processes sweet potatoes in this format, David replied. The frozen sweet potato programs there currently in European supermarkets come mainly from the United States.

“These are interesting lines that we in Santo Boniato have considered on several occasions, including the production of sweet potato flour, like the one China makes. However, bureaucratic hurdles have increased in Spain at a stratospheric level in the wake of the pandemic, and undertaking a new division in a business has become very complicated.”

The fresh segment is still very important for the sweet potato and, as we're about to start the planting campaign in the province of Cadiz, everything points to some improvement in the market this year. “This area and the area where we are, in the Port of Santa Maria, still have water to irrigate. However, it is possible that the Mediterranean area and many other parts of Europe won't have water, so we predict that there will be less production and that prices will go up.”

“In addition, we at Santo Boniato hope to market our product in December/January, when the saturation of the Egyptian product in the market has already passed, which will allow us to better defend the price of our product,” David stressed.

For more information:

Santo Boniato
Tel.: +34 627 95 56 62

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