“The rest of the crop will also have a setback,” he said.
Hoping for optimal fall weather
Growers need higher temperatures and sunny skies in the coming months.
“We’re hoping we have a good fall with good growing conditions. We need that 85- and 95-degree weather,” Precythe said.
An early freeze would be bad news for growers.
“If we have an early frost, it could be the shortest crop in North Carolina in 20 or 30 years, but it all depends on the weather in September and October,” Precythe said.
Matt Garber, partner at Garber Farms, Iota, La., is optimistic about Louisiana’s crop.
“Right now, the expectation is for an average harvest,” he said.
Garber also hopes the season won’t start too late.
“Most of Louisiana’s crop got put in a little later than normal, but the harvest could be about the same as it normally is,” he said.
In addition to the rain delays, sweet potato acreage in the South is down.
Charles Walker, executive secretary of the U.S. Sweet Potato Council, Columbia, S.C., says acreage is down about 11%, according to information from the National Agriculture Statistics Service.
“In 2012, the production estimates had 135,500 acres. The forecast for this year is only 116,100,” he said.
The shorter supplies likely will be especially noticed in the spring and summer of next year.
Sweet potatoes out of North Carolina were shipping at $15-16 for 40-pound cartons of U.S. No. 1 orange-type potatoes; $10-13 for U.S. No. 1 petite; $7-9 for U.S. No. 2; and $8-10 for ungraded jumbos. according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
“I do believe it will affect the potential summer market because acreage is down, and the demand seems to be going up,” Wooten said.
Wooten said growers were uncomfortable with last year’s high acreage.
“Some prices came down below production costs, so it didn’t make sense to plant as much,” he said.