The famous Queensland sunshine has treated the sweet potato crops, which mostly come from that state, ‘too well’ this year, one grower says. The warm and mild weather throughout the spring and summer months has caused an oversupply on the market, according to trader and grower David Healey, of David Russo Produce. “We need to slow it down this year, we get around five trailers just out of our Bundaberg farm in one week, so that’s around 110,000 kilos.”
The oversupply has squeezed prices to about one third of what they were during the summer of 2014. “Last year we were doing quite well, getting up to $60 per box, because we’d had a lot of rain to slow production,” says Mr Healey. “This year it’s more like $18 to $24 per box on the market, but niche varieties such as Hawaiian can still do well, around $30-$40 per box.”
Sweet potatoes from the Russos farm supply all the major supermarkets; Coles, Woolworths and Aldi, and the Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne markets. The most popular variety is the gold, with purple, Hawaiian and white also growing at the Russos farm, according to Mr Healey.
In terms of trends consumers are clearly displaying a preference for the pre-packed, smaller potatoes when shopping with the major retailers, according to Mr Healey. “The large potatoes usually go straight to processors and restaurants.”
With such strong supply, and new export routes opening up from Queensland, including the Wellcamp Airport, Mr Healey says that exports could be an option going into 2016 and beyond. “We’d certainly look into it,” he adds.