After hurricane Matthew the supply of sweet potatoes from North Carolina became a bit unsure. There are rumours of a 25% decrease. "Farmers have difficulties with harvesting. A part of the crop is harvested, but not everything. Before the end of November they want to finish harvesting", explains Martin Oudenes of Roveg. "The available volumes from the United States will be slightly lower than last year and at the same time the total market is growing."
"For production countries such as Spain and Egypt, this brings great opportunities. Both countries are paving the way on quality and their facilities to store the sweet potatoes are improving. Both countries supply from September to March and grow the famous orange fleshed, American varieties with hardly any external damages. In both countries the acreage will increase," according to Martin.
New production countries coming up
"The Egyptian sweet potatoes are of very good quality, but not known everywhere. They are gaining market share step by step. Honduras have had more pressure lately. At the same time more countries in Western Africa are announcing that they want to export as well Brazil where there are new plantings for sweet potatoes. We rarely import sweet potatoes from Western Africa. Personally I like these potatoes, price wise they are in between the Spanish and the American," said the importer.
"Traditionally the volumes from the United States will increase from January. For us the American sweet potatoes are good for 75% of the total market share, but that is depending on the prices. The first North American sweet potatoes arrived already, and have been well received," according to Martin.
Sweet potatoes in the kitchen
Our most important export destinations for the orange sweet potatoes are Germany, Scandinavia and France. Besides I see also a growth in white fleshed sweet potatoes, in particular for the Asian shops. Also the organic sweet potatoes are gaining more demand, provided that the price is in line with the conventional products, because the extra costs for organic shouldn't be too high," said Martin. "The advantage of the sweet potatoes is its broad applicability. When it is colder the demand increases. Sweet potatoes are used for chips, or for soup as a substitute for potatoes, crisps and in deserts."
Nowadays the sweet potato has a permanent placement on the shelves. "Factually the sweet potato is a vegetable, but you'll find them beside the exotics as beside the potatoes. Personally I think they should be in the potato section, because with its health benefits it is a perfect substitute. The sweet potato converts starch in a later stage into sugar, this is ideal for diabetics. In my opinion the campaigns should focus more on this subject!"
All our suppliers have got at least GlobalGAP, but they also work on social responsibility. Sedex and Grasp are already doing audits for this season in countries such as Egypt and North America. We supply sweet potatoes in different packaging: boxes with loose product of 6 kg, 18 kg, bulk and packed in nets or trays", concludes Martin.