Sweet potatoes growers meet changing demand and rising prices


The availability of American sweet potatoes on the British market is good at the moment, but prices are rising steadily.

“The US’s own market is strong and the Canadian market is also in good shape,” explains Simon Hobbs, the commercial director at Scott Farms International. “International sales are also increasing as the Spanish and Egyptian seasons end and are only truly available from the US.”

Demand in the United Kingdom is changing, demand for large sweet potatoes that would normally go to processing is decreasing as processors reduce their orders, while demand for small and medium size is extremely high, as they mainly go to retail. Medium sizes L1 and L2 for the retail market are good, but the wholesale market is less, because nothing goes to catering and small restaurants.

“There are companies that now also do vegetable boxes and receptacles, which is great. Only sweet potatoes do not go into pens on a regular basis, because the price is so much higher than that of normal potatoes.”

In the US, a number of breeds are grown, but only two are exported across the Atlantic Ocean, Covington and Beauregard. It is only the Covington with its orange inside that is available from now until the end of the season in the United States.

Since 1 January and the completion of the Brexit deal there has been no tariff on imports of sweet potatoes from the US to the UK. It was 25% at first, now only 3%.

“Imports to Europe still have a 25% levy, so there is still a levy on us sweet potatoes exported from the UK to the EU. There must also be phytosanitary certificates, which will slow down the whole process. First on Day 1 you could load a truck that arrived in the Netherlands on Day 2. Now you load on Day 1 for delivery on days 3 or 4, because the paperwork stops and it’s all over the sector.”

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