Sweet potato growers bet on a sure cure - The Packer

Sweet potato growers bet on a sure cure

08/26/2011 02:59:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Sweet potato growers like to be able to ship cured product year-round, and this year, it looks like they’ll be able to, with storage crops likely to last until the new crop is cured and ready to ship.

“We try to market cured to cured,” said George Wooten, president and partner, Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., Chadbourn, N.C.

“Based on our supplies now (in August), we think we’ll be able to transition from cured to cured.”

Wooten said he expects the 2010 storage crop to last into September, and cured new-crop sweets should be available in early September.

In August, Wayne E. Bailey was shipping storage crop from facilities in Bruce, Miss., and Chadbourn.

Mississippi’s cured sweet potato storage supplies should last until new-crop cured sweets are available, said Benny Graves, executive director, Mississippi Sweet Potato Council, Vardaman.

“We’ll probably go cured to cured, with very little green shipped,” he said.

Last year, Mississippi growers had to ship some green (uncured) sweet potatoes because storage supplies ran out, Graves said.

On Aug. 18, 40-pound cartons of orange-type U.S. No. 1 sweet potatoes from North Carolina were priced at $16-21 at the Atlanta terminal market, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported. A year earlier, they were priced at $22-24.

Kim Matthews, partner, Matthews Ridgeview Farms, Wynne, Ark., said on Aug. 15 that prices had edged up during the past few weeks.

In mid-August, she was seeing f.o.b. prices at $18 and higher for 40-pound cartons.

Shane Watt, director of sweet potatoes, Wada Farms Marketing Group, Idaho Falls, Idaho, said prices were down just a bit, and he thought it was nothing more than the usual fluctuations.

“Prices are not as strong as last year,” Wooten said. “The supplies may be more adequate this year than last year.”

Supplies ran out sooner last year, Wooten said, and “a little pandemonium” last August caused some concern about where sweet potato sourcing.

That combined with strong demand caused prices to rise.

“There are still tight supplies right now, but they’re a little more managed,” Wooten said.

Weather in the South has been hot and dry, which has slowed sweet potato crops’ progress but should have no effect on quality, growers said.

Wada expects a slow start with excellent quality and average yields, Watt said. Its acreage is up throughout the South, so volumes could be larger than last year.

Mississippi crops endured a two-week period of 100-degree temperatures from late July to early August, Graves said.

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