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August 8, 2017

Digging Into the Sweet Potato Industry in the Southeast

Explore the sweet potato industry in the Southeast.

The sweet potato industry is one that is quickly growing, thanks to an increase in consumer consumption. The high nutritional value of the sweet potato is re-branding the vitamin-heavy starchy root beyond an ingredient that’s only enjoyed during the holidays. The Southeast leads the country in growing sweet potatoes. Discover statistics on the sweet potato industry, below.

Statistics on Growing Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato industry has been growing even faster than a proverbial weed. According to the sweet potato publication on the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AGMRC) website, consumption of sweet potatoes increased almost 80 percent from 2000 to 2014 for an annual consumption of 7.5 pounds per person. Experts point to the sweet potato’s high vitamin and fiber content to explain its rising popularity.

To meet demand, U.S. sweet potato growers raised 3.1 billion pounds of the tuberous root in 2015, according to a USDA blog. Similarly, acreage for sweet potato farms has increased as well, rising from 95,000 acres in 2000 to 135,000 acres in 2015.

Leading States in the Sweet Potato Industry

The Southeast’s long, hot summers are just what sweet potatoes need as they require a minimum of 150 frost-free days; California’s temperate climate also fits the bill. Nationwide, North Carolina has long been the front runner when it comes to national sweet potato production. Hurricane Matthew put a small dent in North Carolina’s production in 2016, but the state’s sweet potato growers usually raise approximately half of the nation’s sweet potatoes each year. According to the AGMRC publication, North Carolina grew 53 percent of the nation’s sweet potatoes in 2015.

Mississippi is second in the nation in sweet potato production, with over 21,000 acres featuring sweet potatoes in 2015, according to the Mississippi Farm Bureau. The town of Vardaman, Mississippi is known as the sweet potato capital of the world.

Though California is third in production, there are other southeastern states that are important to the sweet potato industry as well. Louisiana and Florida are fourth and fifth, respectively. Exports of sweet potatoes have also increased, reaching 409 million pounds in 2015 and forecasted to increase into 2016. Those states with port access will be able to benefit the most from rising sweet potato exports.

At AgAmerica Lending, we have loan packages to start or expand your sweet potato operation. Explore how we helped a family of North Carolina sweet potato farmers expand their operation with a $1.8 million custom loan, and then contact us if you’d like to go over the loan options available to you with one of our expert team members.

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