Sour Year for Sweet Potatoes, Losses From Flooding

November 15, 2016 02:07 PM

Sweet potato growers have had a rough weather year, especially after North Carolina was hit by Hurricane Matthew in October. The state leads the country in sweet potato production.

Fortunately, half of the sweet potato crop was harvested before the storm. However, some losses may not be known until the crop is in storage.

The 4th largest producer of sweet potatoes, Louisiana, was hit with rain during the planting season, a dry stretch, then followed by record rainfall in August.

When it came time to harvest the crop, the abnormally dry conditions returned.

“Growers had to water their fields in order to harvest,” said Myrl Sistrunk, a grower.

August flooding put a damper on the crop that had the potential of being a very good one. Some growers delayed harvesting to allow their potatoes to improve in size, which was slowed by the environmental conditions.

Louisiana has two sweet potato growing regions: in the southern part of the state and the northeast. Both areas suffered losses from the flood, but the southern part received most of the damage.

In some areas in the south, some farmers lost 50 to 70 percent of their crop. In the north, losses ranged from 15 percent to 35 percent.

With these losses, Sistrunk believes some growers will not have enough potatoes to carry them into the spring season like they normally would.

Sweet potato prices remain strong. A 40-pound box costs roughly $19.

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