Most sweet potato growers in North Carolina are in the final stages of this year’s harvest. While the 2020 harvest started a bit later than usual, the crop looks to be on par with the high-quality customers have come to expect from the North Carolina industry.
Late planting and rainy fall weather
While this year’s hurricane season was a very busy one for the southeastern United States, North Carolina sweet potatoes fortunately remained unharmed. “We are officially out of hurricane season now, and thankfully North Carolina did not suffer the damage that our neighbors to the south experienced,” says CoCo Daughtry of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission.
The state did see a lot of rainfall in the late fall, which is why the sweet potato fields were too wet to harvest. “This pushed off work until the fields could dry out,” Daughtry says. In addition to some harvest delays due to the weather, the crop was also planted later this year. “Overall, the later harvest this year allowed time for the crop to size up,” says Daughtry.
Strong demand in the market
“We are going into our sweetest of seasons with the holidays approaching, and we anticipate that the high demand will continue over the next several months,” Daughtry says.
Consumer demand has also risen due to the pandemic this year. “As consumers have continued to remain closer to home due to safety concerns, they are experimenting far more in their kitchens with new recipes,” explains Daughtry.
Moreover, the health benefits and long shelf life of sweet potatoes have been important factors contributing to their demand. “While we do not have data that pinpoints specifically if the demand is affected by this, there is no question that sweet potatoes are indeed a superfood and have excellent shelf life if stored properly. Additionally, sweet potatoes lend themselves to great flexibility in preparation and are an excellent source of nutrition. These facts definitely can’t hurt our market growth opportunities,” Daughtry concludes.