Damage resulting from Hurricane Florence could cut North Carolina sweet potato shipments by as much as 35 percent, at least with one early estimate. Better estimates may not be available for weeks.
Vick Family Farms of Wilson, N.C was expecting to resume the week harvest the week of September 24th when fields should dry. The grower-shipper had completed harvesting about 35 percent of its crop before the massive storm hit.
Farming operation near Wilson, N.C., received about 10 to 12 inches of rain, while southern and southeastern parts of the state east of Wilson received 30 to 40 inches of rain. The farm and packinghouse never lost power. The Vick operation is guessing it has lost 25 to 35 percent of its production, while growing regions south and east potentially suffering greater damage.
The North Carolina sweet potato harvest usually finishes harvest by November or when there is a heavy frost. Thus, how much of the crop is harvested will affect volume this season. Whether post hurricane harvested sweet potatoes will have good storage quality is another concern. Effects from the hurricane are expected to be felt for the next 12 months.
Product harvested prior to Florence has been cured and is being shipped.
The USDA reports season-to-date shipments of North Carolina sweet potatoes totaled only 200,000 pounds through September 15th, off from 7.8 million pounds the same time a year ago.
Nearly all U.S. sweet potatoes are shipped by truck and for the 2017 shipping season North Carolinas accounted for 72.9 percent of the volume, Mississippi 11.7 percent, California 11.6 percent and Louisiana 3.8 percent.