Irene spares North Carolina sweet potatoes - The Packer

Irene spares North Carolina sweet potatoes

10/12/2011 09:40:00 AM
Andy Nelson

“Production may be up a bit,” he said.

“We were a bit on the small side last year. We had a good amount of water from the hurricane, and it’s been great.”

Plenty of jumbos will be on hand for shipments in 2011-12, Ceccarelli said. Smaller spuds will be harder to come by.

Farm Fresh shipped uncured new-crop sweet potatoes from North Carolina in late September. Cured shipments were expected to begin the week of Oct. 3, Ceccarelli said.

Faison-based Burch Farms Inc.’s fields received 6-8 inches of rain from Irene — not a drop too much, according to partner Jimmy Burch.

“We were so dry it didn’t hurt a thing,” he said. “It helped us all out. We were bone dry.”

Burch Farms lost an acre here and there because of the rain, but “not enough to talk about,” Burch said.

Burch Farms started shipping cured new-season sweet potatoes Sept. 27, Burch said. He reported excellent quality and said his company should ship up 10% more volume than last season.

Most of his fellow shippers had similar news to report.

“Everybody I’ve talked to is in a good mood,” he said.

“The crop looks really good.”

Wayne E. Bailey began shipping new crop potatoes in mid-September, Wooten said. The last of the company’s 2010-11 cured crop left the shed on Sept. 27, providing a smooth transition from one crop to the next, he said.

Yields in fields that were moist when fruit set are high, while sets are lighter on later fields more affected by drought, Wooten said.

Those extremes should balance each other out, producing average yields for the crop considered as a whole, he said.

The rains from Irene helped potatoes size up, but they couldn’t do anything about sets, which were established earlier in the summer.

That, Godwin said, is the reason for expected lower yields this year.

The increase in acreage statewide and the lower yields will likely cancel each other out, Godwin said, with production remaining about the same as in 2010.

In addition to good quality, size profile was normal as of late September, Johnson-Langdon said. Godwin Produce also expected an average size profile, Godwin said.

Demand should start to pick up about Oct. 1 before the holiday peaks, she said.

Stewart Precythe, president and chief executive officer of Faison-based Southern Produce Distributors Inc., reported good yields and excellent quality at the end of September.

The only wrinkle was sizing, he said.

Winds from Hurricane Irene blew down tobacco plants down, and as a result, growers of tobacco and sweet potatoes were forced to devote more time to their tobacco crops.

As a result, sweet potato harvests started one or two weeks later than their typical late August/early September starts, Precythe said. That gave spuds extra time to plump up.

“We’ve got a higher percentage of jumbos than I’d like,” he said.

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