The Southern sweet potato deal is shaping up to be one of the best in recent years.
Overall, sources in the region were optimistic and predicted higher prices. Everyone’s overall tone was positive, hopeful and cautious.
Pricing information was sketchy in mid-August because it was early in the deal, but sources said they didn’t expect prices to drop.
Shane Watt, director of sweet potatoes at Wada Farms Marketing Group, Idaho Falls, Idaho, said the company is the Dole-approved marketer of sweet potatoes (as well as potatoes and onions), and has deals in North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Other grower-shippers are focusing on development of new varieties.
Shaking things up
Wada Farms has added a new sweet potato variety this year, the murasaki. It has purple skin and white flesh. The company also offers orange and purple varieties, Watt said.
Wayne Garber, partner in Garber Farms, Iota, La., said his company is carrying beauregard and evangeline sweet potato varieties. The company also has begun carrying the beauregard-3, billed as an improved version of the popular beauregard.
George Wooten, president and part owner of Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., Chadbourn, N.C., said the company carries the covington, beauregard, a bit of the evangeline, o’henry, greenville and some Oriental varieties, such as the grand Asian and the murasaki.
The company recently began carrying the evangeline, and the company’s purple varieties are fairly new, he said.
Roy Hansen, sales manager for Dawson Farms, Delhi, La., have beauregard and evangeline sweet potato varieties.
Earl Roy Sweet Potato Co. LLC, Hessmer, La., will carry beauregard and evangeline sweet potato varieties this year, said manager Johnny Roy. The company’s acreage should be up by about 100 acres this year, and he expects a high-quality crop, he said.
“The crop looks good. We’ve had good weather. It got a bit dry and hot, but we got good rain.”
The company dealt with a minimal amount of pests this year, he said.
Garber Farms has increased its sweet potato crop by about 5% this year.
The vegetables sizing is on track. The company is expecting to harvest around mid-August.
The sweet potato crop is looking favorable this year, Garber said.
“We are very optimistic,” he said.
Garber Farms and other grower-shippers have suffered more than their share of difficult harvests over the last two years but anticipate those hard times are all behind them for now.
This year, Garber Farms may be able to recover from the past two down years and may even be able to get back to where it was three years ago, Garber said. He said he anticipates a decent harvest for this season.