This season U.S. sweet potato shippers are looking for greater volume due to the new crop providing better yields. After unfavorable weather conditions last fall, sweet potato yields dropped from 224 cwt. per acre in 2017 to 190 cwt. per acre in 2018.
Sweet potato acreage and yields fell from 2017 to 2018. Acreage fell from 159,300 acres harvested to 144,400 acres and yield dropped 8.27 million cwt. from 35.64 million cwt. to 27.38 million cwt., according to the USDA.
The USDA reported shipments of North Carolina sweet potatoes totaled 14.2 million 40-pound cartons from August 2018 through July 2019, down from 18.57 million cartons the previous year.
Shipments from Louisiana from August 2018 through July 2019 totaled 1.08 million 40-pound cartons, up slightly from 1.03 million cartons the previous year.
The U.S. Sweet Potato Council Inc. noted Hurricane Florence that hit North Carolina and there were relentless rains in the southern states of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama. The combination in the fall of 2018 was a shortage of potatoes this year.
Garber Farms of Iota, LA lost one third of its 2018 sweet potato crop to wet weather resulting in shipping gaps until the new shipping season gets underway.
Nash Produce of Nashville, NC experienced a similar shipping season. The company is hopeful volume will be up this season.
North Carolina accounted for 19.69 million cwt. of sweet potatoes in 2017 and 10.99 million cwt. in 2018. The state also harvested 16,500 fewer acres than in 2016.
In terms of exports, North Carolina supplies approximately half of exported U.S. sweet potatoes.
U.S. sweet potato exports saw a drop in supply for the first time in 6 years in April 2019. North Caroline dodge most of the “bullet” from Hurricane Dorian a few weeks ago.
Supply is starting to pick up, due to favorable weather, and the American Sweet Potato Marketing Institute expects export volume and production to rise to previous levels.
Harvest started on time with the peak shipping season being from mid-September to mid-October.
Garber Farms started harvest on time in early September with the peak season being in November.