As national demand for sweet potatoes continues to increase each year, suppliers have prepared to meet this need.

George Wooten, president of Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co., Chadbourn, N.C., said overall acreage in North Carolina is up over last year, and that's good, because demand is up too.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolina growers planted 54,000 acres in 2013, 73,000 acres in 2014, and 87,000 acres in 2015.

Charlotte Vick, a partner in Vick Family Farms, Wilson, N.C., agreed, saying demand looks to be good both domestically and internationally.

Norman Brown, director of sales and co-packer relations for sweet potatoes for Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, Idaho Falls, Idaho, said the company has been experiencing double-digit growth in sweet potato sales for the past three years, and he expects this trend to continue for the upcoming crop.

Kelley Precythe, vice president of Southern Produce Distributors Inc., Faison, N.C., said demand has picked up significantly since last year.

"We'll go cured (sweet potatoes) to cured," he said. "Supplies are tight now. The market and pricing are currently firm, and I expect it to stay firm from the new crop of cured sweet potatoes until the holidays in November and December."

Thomas Joyner, general manager of Nash Produce Co., Nashville, N.C., said he expects his 2016-17 crop to be larger than previous years.

"We are anticipating a continuing increase in demand to consume the increased supply," he said. "The weather has been very good year-to-date and hopefully will continue through harvest. Demand continues to increase, particularly for value-added products."